Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to still be a matchwinner for the club this season as long he can adapt to the new way of playing.
Ronaldo asked to leave United during the summer after failure to qualify for the Champions League. Ten Hag initially maintained the 37-year-old was part of his plans, before eventually being prepared to sanction an exit should an offer come in.
A number of clubs showed initial interest in Ronaldo before withdrawing from the race – including Chelsea. The last teams standing in the final days of the transfer window were Sporting CP and Napoli as Jorge Mendes continued to explore options, but his immediate future was sealed when a transfer could not be organised before the deadline struck.
While things were still uncertain, Ronaldo became a bench player for Ten Hag. His only start so far this season was the humiliating 4-0 defeat to Brentford and he has been afforded only 50 minutes in total across the consecutive wins over Liverpool, Southampton and Leicester.
Yet Ten Hag still hasn’t ruled out Ronaldo having a substantial role this season.
“He showed it last year and not that long ago so now he needs to fit in our way of playing, if he does that, he will decide the games because of his capabilities,” the United boss told Sky Sports.
Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey, Toby Cudworth and Harry Symeou bring you a live deadline day edition of Talking Transfers. The team welcome Daniel Childs and Julien Laurens to the show to discuss Chelsea’s late window activity, Arsenal’s pursuit of Douglas Luiz, Paris Saint-Germain’s summer signings & much more! The show is also available on all audio platforms.
It is not only Ronaldo that has been dropped in the early weeks of the season, with club captain Harry Maguire also finding himself out of favour since the back-to-back opening defeats.
Ten Hag has had little time for sentiment, picking his teams based on pragmatism, which has cost Maguire his place on the pitch despite retaining the captaincy.
“I do have emotion when I make decisions, use intuition and feelings but they have to be rational and strategic if you want to go in the direction where Manchester United want to go, and we all have to be on the same page,” Ten Hag explained.
“I have to be clinical and ask what is the best for the club and the team and what is the process and to improve. I have to be transparent and clear and to communicate.”