Erik ten Hag to 'deal with' Cristiano Ronaldo after early exit down tunnel
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Long have Manchester United waited for a figure who can truly command the respect of the dressing room. Enter, Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman has vowed to do things his way at Old Trafford and is seemingly even prepared to go up against the allies of Cristiano Ronaldo if it means achieving success and avoiding the same disastrous fate as his predecessors…
On Wednesday night, Manchester United sparkled and shone as they put Tottenham to the sword.
It was a throwback performance, one fans grew used to seeing under Sir Alex Ferguson, as goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes gave them all three Premier League points.
But one person who didn’t share the same enthusiasm for the match as the rest of the people packed inside Old Trafford was Ronaldo.
With four minutes left on the clock, the 37-year-old made for the exit. Frustrated at being benched, furious at being forced to come on when the game was already done and dusted, he opted to press the eject button.
Not just from the field, but from the stadium too. As players in the dressing room celebrated, their biggest superstar was nowhere to be seen.
In the short time since, many have been quick to condemn Ronaldo.
Neil Warnock was one, with the 73-year-old telling talkSPORT how he would set about ruining the Portugal international’s ‘day off’ as punishment for his actions.
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Peter Schmeichel, who made it clear he’s never had reason to rip into Ronaldo in the past, also joined in.
And Jermaine Pennant, Paul Parker and countless other figures have come out to say that Ten Hag has, in demoting Ronaldo, made the right decision.
But, inevitably, there are some allies on the veteran’s corner.
If this wasn’t Ronaldo, the condemnation would be widespread. But as a player whose career has arguably scaled greater heights than any other, there will always be those willing to defend him.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was manager, much was made of how he always had the backing of his old United team-mates.
And with Ronaldo, it seems to be a similar case.
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Rio Ferdinand played a key role in helping the Portugal international return to Old Trafford in 2021 – instead of crossing the divide to Manchester City instead.
And he’s been one of the players to back Ronaldo, saying on his YouTube channel: “My only thought could be is that Cristiano Ronaldo is being saved for the weekend against Chelsea.
“That’s the only way that I see it, logically, that he did not play [last night]. I think Ronaldo will be absolutely fuming with that, naturally.
“It looks to me right now that it was a no [he didn’t want Ronaldo]. If that’s the case, he should have let Ronaldo go.
“It’s going to be something that hampers Ten Hag going forward until the day Ronaldo leaves the club, because of how much of an icon and superstar he is.”
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Patrice Evra, who also played alongside Ronaldo, said: “Maybe he said to Ten Hag ‘I’m going inside to do some treatment’ so I don’t want to find any excuse but I want to be focused more on the performance of Man Utd.
“We need to stop talking every day about Cristiano.”
And Nani came up with arguably the weakest excuse of them all.
“I don’t know what happened in that moment,” said the Portugal international.
“Maybe he had to go to the bathroom. Everyone knows he is a professional, very big professional.
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“He works really hard to be on the field. Maybe [there can] probably be a little bit of frustration there on not being an option to play.
“But this is his desire, to be on the field and play. But I think it’s not a big deal because there is a reason probably.”
Ten Hag, however, is adamant he’s made the right call.
“And, by taking on United’s players of old, he’s shown the authority the club have sorely lacked in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Ronaldo will miss the club’s showdown with Chelsea on Saturday (5.30pm).
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