ten Hag remains coy on Ronaldo's Man Utd future
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Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be part of Manchester United’s starting XI for tonight’s Premier League clash with Liverpool, according to reports. And it’ll now be fascinating to see how the 37-year-old responds. He wants out, he wants to play, so leaving him on the bench certainly represents a gamble from Erik ten Hag just three matches into his reign.
Ronaldo was restored to United’s starting XI for last weekend’s match with Brentford, with the Portugal international deployed alongside Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford at the Gtech Community Stadium.
However, right from the very start, it was clear the 37-year-old didn’t look fully at the races. While many of his team-mates were considerably poorer in the capital, his flat display was still worrying nonetheless.
According to Sky Sports, Ronaldo won’t be enjoying a similar role tonight. He’s set to be named on the bench, with Anthony Martial likely to come into the side at his expense.
So now is the time where United will discover the Portugal international’s true colours.
Amid United’s poor start to the season, Ronaldo has wanted out. He asked to leave the club back in June, with the 37-year-old eager to be playing in the Champions League this term.
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He’s stayed professional, and is said to be impressing in training, but his abject display against Brentford wasn’t to Ten Hag’s liking. Now, demotion awaits.
History suggests Ronaldo won’t be happy with the decision. Even as he enters the twilight years of his career, the veteran wants to play every single minute of every game.
Just under a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided the former Real Madrid and Juventus star needed a rest for a Premier League match with Everton.
Ronaldo then sulked on the touchline and, when the game ended in a draw, stormed off the pitch without acknowledging the home support – who sang his name throughout the entirety of the match, especially when he was introduced.
He was displeased at Michael Carrick making him a substitute for a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in November, shortly after Solskjaer’s ruthless sacking.
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And Ronaldo threw a tantrum when Ralf Rangnick hooked him when United locked horns with Brentford in a 3-1 win back in February.
That was all at a time where the Portugal international was happy to be back at Old Trafford, having returned from Juventus last August following 12 years away.
Therefore, it makes tonight’s crunch showdown with Liverpool even more intriguing. As if it needed any extra spice in the first place.
Ronaldo will show he’s a team player if he doesn’t sulk. He should offer his team-mates encouragement because, let’s face it, they certainly need it after two defeats from two.
The Portugal international has the potential to inspire, even when he’s not playing.
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The final of the European Championships in 2016 was a testament to that, with Ronaldo offering his team-mates support after being forced out of the final clash with France due to injury.
Yet there’s also a risk that, knowing the cameras will be on him, he’ll use the match as an excuse to make his feelings of disappointment clear.
It’s not unfathomable that Ronaldo will look frustrated on the bench. That’s usually been the case when United have opted against unleashing him from the start.
But if he carries on like the professional he is, then it can show United he’s truly committed to the cause.
Ronaldo isn’t the only player who could be dropped for tonight’s match against Liverpool as the Red Devils seek a first three points of the season at the third time of asking.
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Harry Maguire’s place is under threat, amid suggestions Raphael Varane will partner Lisandro Martinez at the back instead.
And Bruno Fernandes may be the fall guy for Scott McTominay, with the Scotland international expected to be restored after being dropped for the Brentford humbling.
United will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last season when they go up against their fierce rivals.
They lost 5-0 in the same fixture at Old Trafford last term, with Mohamed Salah bagging a sublime hat-trick in a memorable win.
And Liverpool thumped the Red Devils 4-0 when they met back at Anfield back in April.
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