Gary Neville believes Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player in the Manchester United dressing room who can lead the club out of their current malaise.
United have started the season dreadfully, with two defeats from their opening two matches against Brighton and Brentford. For all their pre-season optimism, Erik ten Hag's team now find themselves bottom of the Premier League ahead of a daunting visit from old rivals Liverpool on Monday night.
Red Devils legend and Sky Sports favourite Neville, 47, has called on Ronaldo to lead United's recovery and protect the club's younger players in the same way that Roy Keane and Eric Cantona did when he was starting out.
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"These players go out onto the pitch now and they feel alone, they don't feel like they've got anybody," Neville told The Diary Of A CEO YouTube channel. "That's where I'm a little bit critical of Cristiano [Ronaldo]. You're the man, you're the star, you're the best player in the world, come on.
"Now is not the time to be throwing your arms around, now is not the time to be walking off the pitch, now is the time to make sure you lead those people, but he wants to leave; he wants to go and play somewhere else – and that might happen – and who could blame him?
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"He wants to finish his career at a club that is achieving great things, but I do think he is the only player in that dressing room who could lead them because he's the only one who has the in built resilience and mental strength to get through a moment like…it won't be touching him, this.
"Other than the personal frustration, the fact he's playing in a team that isn't giving him the chances, the goals, the success he wants, but on a point of view of criticism, it won't be touching him.
Neville continued: "He's played at Real Madrid, he's played at Manchester United, he's won five, six Champions Leagues, he's won Ballon d'Ors. You can't touch him with the criticism or words, it's impossible.
"He can withstand all this pressure and protect the players on the pitch. That's what I think Roy Keane did with us, what Peter Schmeichel did, what [Eric] Cantona did, what [Bryan] Robson did, they protected us."
Ronaldo has been accused in the past week of creating a toxic atmosphere at Old Trafford, but they'll need him to be pulling in the right direction on Monday night when United host Liverpool in the Premier League.
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