The story of Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United is a gripping one.  CR7 — the emergency messiah United had always craved instead of wholesale rebuilding after the Sir Alex Ferguson years — delivered.   But the collective limped, as always.

Now, the messiah wants out only to be shown a plan of serious rebuilding under new manager, the Dutch Erik ten Hag; and Ronaldo’s cemented place in it.

The snag is the messiah isn’t convinced.  But neither is United interested in letting him go.

United’s hands are strengthened because hardly any mouth-watering offer is coming for CR-7, now 37.  In a way, he is approaching the profile of the supreme athlete as an old man!  Even he, in the mega-buck football sell-and-buy market, isn’t about to defy gravity!

The question is: how would the parting end?  Nasty with CR7 insisting he wanted out no matter what?  Or staying back, even though his heart is elsewhere?

Elsewhere: but where?  Some sporting rumours are already claiming Atletico Madrid, fierce and local rivals of Real Madrid, where Ronaldo had his best football years, are already opening the door a notch.  Well, until any deal is done, it stays just that — rumour!

CR7 has made a name for himself as a highly drilled athlete, almost a crazy goal robot in flesh-and-blood, though he lacks the audacious and frothy skills of Lionel Messi, his great Argentine rival, who is a more complete player, though younger by a year or two.

Still, can CR7 pull his stunt for United, week-in, week-out, if his mind is not at Old Trafford?  It’s testy time ahead of United’s boisterous fans, more so when CR7 and his manager have already moved that the star player be released from his two-year contract after just a year.

Well, however it turns out, it would be hard lessons for United.  The team Sir Alex left was crap, though the legendary Scot had infused in them such a formidable winning mentality that they seem not to realise it.

Then, came the virtual slaughter, on the altar of quick fix, of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho — the not-so-Special One these days — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the golden United player under Sir Alex turned tinsel manager, and Ralf Rangnick, calm but luckless interim manager, under whom United finally pathetically collapsed.

Just imagine if the club had shunned the quick-fix and rebuilt, immediately after sacrificing Moyes, after only 10 months in a six-year contract!  Moyes had left his legend-like status at Everton to summary disgrace at United.  But thank goodness Moyes is regaining part of his honour at West Ham United.

Re-build, with or without CR7.  That’s the message Hag should imbibe.  Else, it’s just a matter of time before his own blood too is splattered on the managerial chop-board.