Erik ten Hag claimed Cristiano Ronaldo is being unfairly treated in the aftermath of his recent actions, and hinted at what his first team to face Brighton will look like.
Ronaldo recently courted controversy when among a cluster of Man Utd players to leave their pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano early.
Ronaldo was not alone in doing so in a move Ten Hag subsequently branded “unacceptable”.
The Portuguese icon has made clear his desire to pursue his Champions League ambitions elsewhere. However, with no concrete interest emerging and Anthony Martial suffering a hamstring injury, Ronaldo may yet find himself in the eleven to face Brighton on Sunday.
Firstly, Ten Hag confirmed Martial will miss the Brighton clash, telling a press conference on Friday (via the Manchester Evening News): “Yes. It is always difficult to say with injuries [how long he will be out for]. I hope it is not for too long.”
Martial had excelled in pre-season and would’ve given Ten Hag leeway to leave Ronaldo out.
However, Ronaldo may be called upon this weekend and when asked if he’ll start, Ten Hag coyly replied: “See on Sunday.”
On the subject of Ronaldo being singled out for leaving the Rayo friendly before the full time whistle, Ten Hag leapt to his striker’s defence.
“There were many players who left early and the spotlight is on Cristiano – that is not right. Do your research,” exclaimed Ten Hag.
“I am really happy. We have a top striker. He is here and is in the squad.”
Ten Hag pushed for Frenkie de Jong update
Unsurprisingly, the topic of United’s long-running pursuit of Frenkie de Jong was raised.
Free-spending Chelsea are now in the mix and United’s pursuit – which has entered its third month – looks no closer to completing.
When asked directly about his fellow Dutchman, Ten Hag took the high road.
“I cannot comment on a player contracted to another club. When we have news, we will bring it,” added the United boss.
On if he’s happy with his midfield options which now includes new signing Christian Eriksen, Ten Hag said: “I think so.
“As we saw in pre-season, we did pretty well there. We have a good team. But we can still strengthen the squad.”
Eriksen may be in line to feature from the off against Brighton. Ten Hag confirmed both he and Lisandro Martinez are “fit enough to start.”
“We need competition in the squad, but also we are going into a long season with a lot of games,” he continued.
“We need a lot of good players. They are fit enough to start.”