‘Age doesn’t matter’, Ten Hag insists Ronaldo is in his plans

31 Aug 2022 | 08:32 | Football

Erik ten Hag insists Cristiano Ronaldo still has a future at Manchester United after the Portuguese star was embarrassed to be eliminated in the team’s thrilling 2-1 win over Liverpool.

United looked much more dynamic without Ronaldo as they led Liverpool to end a dismal streak with two consecutive defeats at the start of the Premier League season.

With Ronaldo’s aging reduced to the substitutes’ pitch in the closing minutes at Old Trafford on Monday, United were finally able to successfully deploy Ten Hag’s aggressive game plan.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga formed the attacking trio that gave United the speed and energy they lacked in the 2-1 loss to Brighton and the subsequent humiliating 4-0 defeat at Brentford.

Demonstrating Ten Hag’s decision to banish Ronaldo and spark fresh debate about his future, it was Sancho who opened the scoring for United and Rashford who doubled the lead.

After missing United’s pre-season tour for “family reasons” amid reports that he had told the club he wanted to leave, Ronaldo was no longer worried when Entering the new season.

United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League this season convinced Ronaldo that he should give up a club that hasn’t won a major trophy since 2017, giving Ten Hag a headache just weeks after his arrival at Ajax.

However, with United insisting Ronaldo is not for sale, the former Real Madrid and Juventus forward has found himself in limbo.

The 37-year-old, who finished as United’s top scorer last term, showed little commitment to the Ten Hag regime as he left Old Trafford before starting after being substituted in pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano.

The substitute’s limp appearance in the second-half defeat to Brighton was further evidence of a potentially fractured relationship between the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and his manager.

Ronaldo played the full 90 minutes of United’s loss to Brentford, but he made little attacking threat in one of the club’s worst results in recent memory.

‘Difficult decisions’
That leaves Ten Hag to make a crucial decision as he weighs his side for the crucial clash with Liverpool.

Leaving Ronaldo and then watching United lose to their arch-rival would put a lot of pressure on Ten Hag.

But the Dutchman refused to appear baffled by the situation as he was ignored by Ronaldo and England defender Harry Maguire, a bold move that turned a profit as United climbed out of the relegation zone with a win. for the first time this season.

Now that United have won impressively without Ronaldo – with him on the bench for sure – there may be fresh impetus from the striker and his agent Jorge Mendes to force the news. through a transfer.

It’s hard to imagine Ronaldo being able to adapt to Ten Hag’s high-paced philosophy in the twilight of his career.

At least, however, Ten Hag is adamant that Ronaldo has a part in his plan.

“I think he can do it. Throughout his career he has done it under many managers, in many styles and systems. He always shows so why can’t he do it? get this? His age doesn’t matter,” Ten Hag said after the match against Liverpool.

“We have a squad and we have a way of playing, a style and a game plan. You see what is the best approach to the game. Today is those players, Saturday could be. will be different.”

In Ronaldo’s absence, United’s defiant attitude against Liverpool set the pattern for the Ten Hag era.

New signing Casemiro, signed from Real Madrid, epitomizes that spirit and Ten Hag wants to see the same from Ronaldo.

“We talked about leadership, today we have leadership on the pitch, he is one too,” Ten Hag said of Casemiro.

“Ronaldo has it, so you need some and it’s like a guide for young players who don’t win titles.”

Pressured on the futures of Ronaldo and Maguire, Ten Hag added: “I don’t need to mention Harry Maguire and Ronaldo, they are great players and they will play some role in the future, the future. short term (short term).

“It’s always difficult (to get rid of them) but I have to make a decision.”

Whether that olive branch will be enough to stop Ronaldo’s dilemma from Ten Hag’s United revolution remains to be seen.