Cristiano Ronaldo’s early departure from Old Trafford during Sunday’s friendly with Rayo Vallecano was “unacceptable”, according to Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
The Portugal forward was seen leaving United’s stadium at half-time of Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the La Liga side, the club’s final pre-season friendly before the start of the new Premier League season.
Ronaldo was pictured leaving Old Trafford with his United team-mate Diogo Dalot, but unlike his compatriot, the defender had not been included in the club’s squad to play Vallecano.
However, the 37-year-old – whose future at United is in doubt with reports he wants to leave in order to play for a club competing in next season’s Champions League – had featured in the first half against the Spaniards, before being substituted at the interval.
I certainly don’t condone this. This is unacceptable. For everyone. We are a team and you have to stay until the end
Ten Hag, though, was unimpressed with Ronaldo’s actions, telling Dutch media outlets AD and Viaplay that while “he was not the only one who left after half-time, I tell them (the players) that it’s unacceptable. That we are a team, and that you need to stay right until the very end.”
Ronaldo was absent for United’s recent pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia while he dealt with a family issue and only returned to training last week, when he and his agent, Jorge Mendes, held further talks about his future.
United are insistent, however, that they will not sanction the sale of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who is firmly in Ten Hag’s plans, although the new United boss has admitted the player is still a long way behind his team-mates in terms of fitness.
“He is not on the level of the rest of the squad because he missed a lot of weeks,” Ten Hag told Viaplay before Sunday’s clash with Rayo. “But he needs games and he needs training, a lot.”
United kick off their Premier League campaign at home to Brighton on Super Sunday, with the game live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Ex-Man Utd coach Chris Armas has explained how Ten Hag can keep Ronaldo at the club.
Armas served as an assistant to Ralf Rangnick during the German’s six-month spell as interim manager, during which time there were a number of reported leaks from the Old Trafford dressing room and rumours over his relationship with forward Ronaldo.
That intense speculation over the Portuguese has remained since Ten Hag was appointed. Ronaldo has missed most of United’s pre-season for family reasons and told the club last week he still wants to leave Old Trafford before the transfer window closes on September 1.
Armas explained how he had tried to get the best out of the five-time Ballon D’Or winner, who scored 12 Premier League goals in 19 games during Rangnick’s time in charge, and how Ten Hag could try to win over his wantaway forward.
“It’s a hands-on approach, speaking with him, bringing him into the office, asking him questions, so he’s part of the solutions and part of the success,” he said.
“It was my job to work out how to get all that fire, experience and talent and challenge him as much as I could. I think the most important thing is to engage with Cristiano.
“He’s got so much to give, his commitment to winning and scoring, each guy has their different type of leadership. He can be a leader in his way, and my goal like everyone in the squad was to say how can I get the most out of Cristiano.
“When you talk about, at the highest level, seeing a professional and what winning means to Ronaldo, what scoring goals mean to him – he’s on the team, a big part of the team and he’s a guy who produced.”
Has Ronaldo run out of options?
Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
“As we’ve seen on Instagram, Ronaldo has been keeping fit, so there are no concerns from Manchester United over his fitness or physical level; he’s one of the fittest players in world football.
“Ultimately, Ronaldo did state his desire to leave Old Trafford, but he’s running out of options, and it seems like he’s actually going to have to stay. Perhaps he will try and swing it where the 25 per cent pay cut in his contract will be waived away by United.
”Perhaps he wants to manoeuvre and muscle a new deal, we’ll have to wait and see. But it doesn’t look like Stamford Bridge is on his cards.
“Chelsea have distanced themselves from a deal for Ronaldo, as have Bayern Munich, Napoli and a lot of other elite clubs that Jorge Mendes, who is Ronaldo’s agent, has tried to sell him to.
“An offer from Saudi Arabia is astronomical but ultimately, it does not give Cristiano Ronaldo what he wants, which is that legacy. He wants to achieve Champions League records that he thinks no one else will be able to attain in the future.
“He wants to sign off at the absolute highest level. Now, it looks increasingly like he will have to stay at Manchester United because there are no biters from the big clubs.
“Everyone has their forwards already, and Chelsea, who are the only club looking like they could actually potentially be spun by what Cristiano Ronaldo offers off the pitch.
”We were told that Mendes, while being in front of these clubs, was putting forward his numbers in terms of social media influence, sponsorship that he rakes in, the commercial gain of his shirt sales and stuff like that.
”But even they now say he is not in their plans. Their immediate aim is to strengthen the defence.
“So, that leaves Ronaldo really with not many choices. We know that he does want to be competing at the highest level so if he does go to Saudi Arabia that cuts against everything he has said and everything we actually know about him and his career.
“Manchester United have always been very calm and very comfortable. They have insisted he is not for sale, and he will see out the last year of his contract. How they manoeuvre this now going forward we’ll see, but Ronaldo is keeping fit, so they have no issues or problems or fears over what state he’ll report back to pre-season in.”
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