Erik ten Hag has revealed he expects Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Manchester United for the rest of the season, despite axing the superstar from his squad.
The Dutch boss has poured cold water on reports Ronaldo could leave Old Trafford in January, but has said the Portugal captain must accept the ‘consequences’ after a series of touchline strops.
5 Ronaldo controversially left Old Trafford early during Man United’s win over Spurs
5 Ten Hag has stated he told Ronaldo what the consequences would be if he left the stadium early
Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham was United’s best performance since Ten Hag’s appointment, and yet Ronaldo ensured all the post-match talk would be dominated by him after he stormed down the tunnel before the full-time whistle had been blown.
It appeared the 37-year-old was unhappy with being an unused substitute in the match, but Ten Hag later revealed that he had actually refused to come on the pitch.
He stomped out of the United dugout and down the tunnel before the game had even finished, and skipped his teammates’ celebrations by reportedly leaving the stadium before they had even returned to the dressing room.
Ten Hag acted swiftly, axing Ronaldo from the matchday squad for Saturday evening’s Premier League clash against Chelsea, and making him train on his own away from the main group as punishment.
That’s unlikely to have made Ronaldo’s mood any better, but Ten Hag has been keen to lay down the law in a message to CR7 and the rest of his team – that ‘bad behaviour’ will be punished.
“It is a difficult decision, it’s clear,” Ten Hag said ahead of the Chelsea game.
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“But I think there has to be consequences for behaviour or when it’s bad behaviour and it’s the second time, then you can’t let it go because otherwise it is going to be miserable for the future.
“Then you have to take this measure which I don’t like it because I prefer the squad with Cristiano on board.
“It’s not about [showing who is in charge]. It’s about the club. I have to take decisions in the interests of the club and the team especially. That’s my job.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, reputation or age. Also with my line-up, I have to pick the team where I think we have the best chance to win.”
Reports have suggested Ronaldo could again look to leave United when the transfer window reopens in January, having failed to push through an exit in the summer.
Ten Hag did not want to talk about January signings and said ‘I count on Cristiano’, confirming he both thinks and wants the veteran to be at United for the remainder of the season.
“It’s for this game and then we continue,” he said. “I am open for that. For me, that is a strike.
5 Ronaldo trained with a fitness coach on Friday
“What we said in the statement we mean: Cristiano remains an important part of the squad and I count on him for the rest of the season. We want to fulfil our ambitions.”
Asked if his absence could go beyond Monday, the United boss said: “I don’t think so, no. That is not my purpose.
“What I said, I don’t want to miss him. I want him to be in the squad, I want him to get involved for every game because he has an impact.”
“We set certain standards but that is for any player.”
Ronaldo may be back involved when United host Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League on Thursday, when the reaction from the stands is likely to be less positive than usual.
The 37-year-old is revered by the Old Trafford faithful after his outstanding first spell at the club but his latest histrionics are unlikely to have gone down well.
5 Ten Hag insists he expects Ronaldo to stay despite talk of a possible exit in January
Put to Ten Hag that a harsh reaction could welcome Ronaldo on his return, the Dutchman said: “I think [his popularity] is justified because he achieved a lot in his career. I don’t have maybe to mention but it is so brilliant.
“But also he has to be aware you always get justified by the moment for how you are acting today.
“Especially I think in top sport it is about today – it is not about age, it not about reputation.
“You always when you do top sport, you get justified, you get judged by the moment and [how] you act. That’s normal.
“We have to be aware of it – everyone, not just Cristiano, has to be aware of it as a team, as a manager, as a club.”
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