Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has bitten back at reports specializing in Cristiano Ronaldo’s early exit from Old Trafford last Sunday. Ronaldo dominated the headlines after Ten Hag’s first (unofficial) home game as United boss, but he wasn’t the one first-team star to depart at half-time, and the Dutchman has now leapt to his defence.
The 37-year-old striker returned to motion against Rayo Vallecano after missing the pre-season tour of Thailand, Australia and Oslo. He was withdrawn at half-time after getting 45 minutes under his belt as United went on the draw 1-1 with the La Liga outfit.
But Ronaldo caused a media storm after being spotted leaving Old Trafford in the course of the second half, with current speculation surrounding his future only pouring fuel onto the hearth. And in an interview with Viaplay within the aftermath, Ten Hag suggested he wasn’t the just one who exited the bottom before full-time and labelled the behaviour ‘unacceptable’.
“There have been more who did this [leave early],” Ten Hag explained, attempting to shift the main target away from Ronaldo. “Absolutely not [I didn’t accept it]. That is unacceptable. I tell them this, that is unacceptable. We’re a team. We’re a squad. You may have to remain until the tip.”
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In the course of the pre-match press conference ahead of his first competitive game as United manager, Ten Hag slammed how the ordeal was reported. He urged those reporting on the matter to ‘do their research’ and insisted he’s delighted to have him as a part of his squad for the 2022/23 season.
He told reporters: “Now I even have to indicate, there have been many players who left, however the highlight is on Cristiano [Ronaldo]. That will not be right. Do your research and make out that many players left. We now have a top striker; I’m really completely happy he’s here with the squad. We persist with the plan.”
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Ronaldo has reportedly been ‘excellent’ in training for the reason that Rayo friendly as he bids to stay skilled despite his desire to depart. And with Anthony Martial ruled out through injury, the Portuguese icon could make a surprise start against Brighton, despite being low on match sharpness.
Marcus Rashford could also start centrally, with Anthony Elanga or Christian Eriksen on the left. Or Ten Hag could go for a false-nine system, which he utilized in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Wrexham last week, with Bruno Fernandes because the centre-piece.
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