Lay off Cristiano! Erik ten Hag says it is unfair that the ‘spotlight’ is on Ronaldo for leaving Man United’s friendly against Rayo Vallecano early… but Dutch boss admits he is unsure whether the forward will play against Brighton this weekend
- Several players left Old Trafford early during Manchester United’s friendly
- Erik ten Hag said it was ‘unacceptable’, which was viewed as a swipe at Ronaldo
- But the Dutchman says that the forward should not be singled out for criticism
- Ronaldo could feature on Sunday against Brighton as Anthony Martial is out
Erik ten Hag leapt to the defence of Cristiano Ronaldo on the eve of the new season as the soap opera surrounding Manchester United’s star player continued.
After being seen to take a swipe at Ronaldo by telling Dutch television it was ‘unacceptable’ the player had left United’s final pre-season game against Rayo Vallecano before the end, Ten Hag went out of his way to smooth over the controversy.
The United boss said it was unfair for Ronaldo to shoulder all the blame because a number of United players – including his Portugal team-mate Diogo Dalot – also darted out of Old Trafford early on Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at Manchester United’s training ground on Friday morning
The forward appeared to leave the friendly with Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford early
‘Now I have to point out, those who left… there were many players who left but the spotlight is on Cristiano, and that is not right,’ said Ten Hag.
‘So do your research and make out that many players left. That is not correct or acceptable. I don’t understand what is the relation. He was part of it. There were a lot of players.’
Asked if he has spoken to Ronaldo and the other players, Ten Hag said: ‘You mention it, you correct them, then move on. We’ve said enough on it. I said it’s not correct.’
Ten Hag can only hope his team get on the front foot equally as quickly on Sunday, when United host Brighton, after a challenging first summer in charge.
Ten Hag praised the pre-season work of his players in his press conference on Friday afternoon
It has been dominated by the Ronaldo narrative after he asked to leave the club and then missed most of pre-season due to an unspecified family issue.
No surprise then to see United’s No 7 dominate the build-up to the game, given that his agent Jorge Mendes still has another 26 days to engineer a move away.
However, Ten Hag claimed he is planning for the new campaign with Ronaldo, 37, in his squad and wants last season’s 24-goal top scorer to stay.
‘I’m really happy,’ he said. ‘We have a top striker and I’m happy he’s here. I’m satisfied with the whole team. We’re working well and Cristiano is working hard.’
Erik ten Hag says the spotlight should not be on Ronaldo alone for leaving before full-time
For now, the most pressing issue surrounding Ronaldo is whether he will start against Brighton, having played just 45 minutes of football this summer.
Anthony Martial will miss the game with a hamstring strain after leading the attack in pre-season, leaving Ten Hag with a big call to make for his first Premier League team selection.
Does he pitch Ronaldo into the starting line-up or stick with the players who have put in the hard work at Carrington and on tour by finding an alternative replacement for Martial?
‘We will see Sunday,’ said Ten Hag. ‘I think we’ll have solutions to sort it out.’
Anthony Martial is unavailable for the clash with the Seagulls due to a minor hamstring issue
There is no doubt that the Dutchman would like to have a few more solutions at his disposal, though. He has made no secret he wants another forward, and United’s summer-long pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong shows no sign of slowing.
Ten Hag is sticking to his mantra that he wants the right players through the door – otherwise he is happy with what United have already got.
‘You don’t need any player, you need the right player,’ he said. ‘If it’s not the right player, no, I’m happy with the current squad.
‘We want Frenkie? I don’t know. It’s about the right players and I cannot comment on a player under contract at another club.’