Erik ten Hag has claimed Cristiano Ronaldo could stay at Manchester United beyond the expiry of his contract with the club and that the Portuguese is capable of fitting into his high-pressing style.
Speculation has swirled around Ronaldo’s future ever since it was revealed that he had made clear to those inside Old Trafford of his desire to leave. The 37-year-old has one year remaining on his deal and having not joined up for United’s pre-season tour of the far east and Australia due to personal reasons, it was expected he would be granted a departure from the club he rejoined less than a year ago before the start of the upcoming campaign.
However Ten Hag has made it clear since becoming United manager that Ronaldo is part of his plans for the 2022-23 season and went further in an interview ahead of United’s game against Crystal Palace at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday by suggesting the player may remain in situ beyond then, too. “I am well informed – he also has an option [for a further season],” the Dutchman said. “Yes [Ronaldo could stay beyond this season]. Of course I have signed here for three years, but in football it’s short-term as well. We have to win from the start. So I don’t look that far ahead.”
Ten Hag has still not spoken with Ronaldo but made clear he remains relaxed about the situation, as well as with the player’s lack of preparation for the new season. “We all know Ronaldo is a top professional and will be fit, that is the last concern I have,” he insisted.
The manager also feels sure Ronaldo can be the spearhead of his attack despite statistics from last season relating to pressing, sprinting and work rate suggesting the veteran is a bad fit for the way Ten Hag had Ajax playing and will no doubt want to replicate at Old Trafford. “Cristiano is capable of doing that [pressing from the front]. In his career he has shown everything,” said Ten Hag. “We want to play in a certain way. A top player can contribute and Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad.”
Somewhat contradicting himself, however, Ten Hag also suggested that incorporating Ronaldo into his team will inevitably mean compromising his principals. “The players dictate the way you play. Especially players who score goals because they are extremely important for a team,” said the 52-year-old. “You construct your team around them.”
July 18, 2022 at 09:40PM Jamie Jackson in Melbourne and Sachin Nakrani