Manchester United have told Cristiano Ronaldo their preference is not to sue for breach of contract but that it remains an option if the striker decides to fight his Old Trafford exit, sources have told ESPN.
United released a statement to say they have "initiated appropriate steps" following Ronaldo's explosive interview with Piers Morgan during which he launched fierce criticism of the club and manager Erik ten Hag.
Sources have told ESPN that United are seeking to terminate the 37-year-old's contract, which was due to run until June, and do not want him back after the World Cup. United, according to sources, want the matter resolved quickly but are keeping their options open, one of which is to sue the Portugal international. They have been taking legal advice since Monday.
The club believe they have grounds to rip up Ronaldo's contract because his interview amounts to gross misconduct. United have to give 14 days in writing of their intention to terminate any player's contract.
Sources have told ESPN that United want to avoid a lengthy legal wrangle but accept that it will depend on Ronaldo's response to their decision to force his exit. The forward arrived in Qatar with the rest of the Portugal squad on Friday night and will train at the Al Shahaniya Sports Club on Saturday. Portugal begin their campaign against Ghana on Thursday.
Sources have told ESPN that United are hoping the matter will have been finalised before their season restarts with a Carabao Cup tie against Burnley at Old Trafford on Dec. 21. Their Premier League campaign restarts against Nottingham Forest on Dec. 27.
Ronaldo will be told he is not welcome back at United's Carrington training base even if Portugal suffer an early exit in Qatar. After playing Ghana, they face Uruguay and South Korea in Group H and could face Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia or Cameroon if they qualify for the knockout rounds.