CHRIS WHEELER: The Cristiano Ronaldo saga is the last thing Man United manager Erik ten Hag needs
CHRIS WHEELER: For a coach whose philosophy is based on order and control, the Cristiano Ronaldo saga is the last thing Erik ten Hag needs…
- Erik ten Hag adhered to the party line and said the right things about his absent star
- But Cristiano Ronaldo has only just returned when his patience is running out
- New Manchester United boss Ten Hag called Ronaldo’s actions ‘unacceptable’
- How he handles it from now on may determine the Dutchman’s first season
Erik ten Hag has kept a straight face and played an even straighter bat this summer on questions about Cristiano Ronaldo.
From Bangkok to Oslo, Melbourne to Manchester, Ten Hag has followed the party line and said all the right things about his absent star.
Ronaldo missed Manchester United’s pre-season tour for family reasons, he explained. The player is not for sale and remains under contract.
New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (pictured) has kept a straight face and played an even straighter bat this summer on questions about wanton striker Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, this summer
But once Ronaldo is back in training and has made his first appearance of the summer, Ten Hag’s patience is clearly running out.
The 37-year-old’s early departure from Old Trafford before the end of Sunday’s friendly against Rayo Vallecano, after being substituted at half-time, did not go down well with a manager who values team spirit, discipline and time . to keep.
‘Unacceptable’, is how Ten Hag described it for Dutch television, probably an understatement.
He couldn’t have been happier with the way Ronaldo announced on social media that he would be in the squad for the game (“Sunday, the king plays”) after making it clear he doesn’t want egos in his squad.
Or when Ronaldo disagreed with his manager while speaking to the team during a break in the game.
No sooner is Portuguese star Ronaldo back in training and making his first appearance of the summer than Ten Hag’s patience is clearly running out on the veteran (above)
Is the five-time Ballon d’Or winner trying to provoke Ten Hag to let him leave? United have certainly grown tired of attempts by agent Jorge Mendes to orchestrate a transfer and there are concerns that Ronaldo will ‘play up’, as former team-mate Gary Neville put it on Wednesday.
But United have stood their ground and there is no sign of that changing, especially if they don’t have a real offer to consider. For now, Ten Hag must try to integrate Ronaldo into his plans while taking on any challenge that undermines his authority.
That was never an issue during the tour as the players talked about the strict regime imposed by the new manager. Ten Hag, meanwhile, brushed aside questions about Ronaldo’s absence and future.
Nothing in his career in the Netherlands could prepare him for the circus around Ronaldo and Mendes. For a coach whose philosophy is based on order and control, that is the last thing Ten Hag needs.
How he and United go about it from now on could well determine the Dutchman’s first season.
Club icon and pundit Gary Neville (pictured) has said: ‘It’s distasteful to see, as an ex-Manchester United captain… You can’t have your star player in a club that runs the shop.’
If there’s one thing that works in their favor, it’s that Ronaldo is likely to step in if he doesn’t have a move by the time the transfer window closes. His dedication means that he will always give 100 percent on the field.
He wanted to play on Sunday and insiders say he showed excellent attitude in training, even staying behind for extra training with teammates.
But Neville, for example, expects better from him. “Ronaldo’s achievements in football are beyond anything anyone could wish for and imagine,” he said.
“But it’s indigestible for me as a former Manchester United captain to see the star player play up. You can’t have your star player in a club that runs the shop.”
Ten Hag knows that too. But bringing Ronaldo into line is easier said than done.