Manchester United get their Premier League season underway on Sunday afternoon when they face Brighton – in a sport Cristiano Ronaldo now appears set to be concerned in
If Erik ten Hag was in any doubt about whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo was prepared to begin Manchester United ’s first game of the season – his response to criticism has erased it.
The reality that there is any debate over Ronaldo’s position in United’s beginning XI shows simply how tumultuous the closing three months have been. Few would have expected at the end of last season that the 37-year-old’s future would be one of the most hotly mentioned topics in world football.
But alas, his want to facilitate a go away from Old Trafford has not solely disrupted his own pre-season, but forged a shadow over the complete club’s. Ten Hag allowed Ronaldo to omit United’s summer tour of Australia and Asia – and has eased him back into the fold since.
Ronaldo has played just 45 minutes since breaking up for the summer, however it was once his exit from Old Trafford – rather than what he did on the pitch – which made headlines.
Ten Hag opted to not name his talisman in particular when he described quite a few players’ choice to leave early as “unacceptable”. But if the Dutchman idea his most high-profile participant wouldn’t undergo the brunt of the response then it was his first stroke of naivety.
The new United boss has insisted that preserving Ronaldo at the club past September was always in the blueprint and has many times stated he intends to “stick to the plan”. What he possibly hadn’t forecasted was beginning the veteran striker after such a disrupted length of preparations.
But after Anthony Martial pulled up with an injury in training, Ten Hag’s options to replace him against Brighton are minimal. He may still decide to maintain Ronaldo on the bench, ready to make an impact towards tiring legs.
However, that would be going against the player’s wishes, who has made it clear he is fit, happy and raring to go. Mirror Football exclusively revealed that Ronaldo has been ‘firing’ in training in the days leading up to their clash with the Seagulls and has told Ten Hag he is in prime condition.
Ronaldo’s attitude has rightly come under question in recent weeks, but sources at Carrington have said that he has been at his best in training – backing up Ten Hag’s own version of events.
“How do I feel about starting the season with Ronaldo? I’m really happy,” said Ten Hag. “I had told you before: we planned with him for the season. We have a top striker and I’m really happy he’s here, he’s in the squad and we stick to the plan.”
Ronaldo may have issued a response on the training pitches at Carrington but he may need to be ready to devise some more answers, with his former team-mate and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville urging him to face the cameras.