Erik ten Hag let the Man Utd board know in no uncertain terms what must be done in the coming weeks, and revealed his plans for wantaway striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo let Manchester United know of his desire to play Champions League football next season in early-July. Unfortunately for Ten Hag, that is not a demand that United can satisfy following their sixth-placed finish last season.
Spanish outlet Sport claimed the real reason behind Ronaldo’s UCL desire is one of jealousy.
Indeed, they claimed that above all others, the reason he wants to leave Old Trafford is to ensure Lionel Messi doesn’t break his Champions League goalscoring record.
Regardless, concrete interest in Ronaldo is not emerging. The big wigs at Bayern Munich have all publicly stated Ronaldo won’t be moving to Bavaria.
Furthermore, Thomas Tuchel has fears Ronaldo would be a Romelu Lukaku 2.0 if moving to Stamford Bridge. A return to Madrid with Atletico was deemed unfeasible by Real’s bitter rivals.
Ronaldo has not travelled with the rest of the United squad for their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia. The reason cited was a family issue, something Manchester United have readily accepted.
Now, speaking in a press conference ahead of their friendly against Aston Villa in Perth, Ten Hag outlined the plan for Ronaldo if he remains on the books.
Ten Hag “cannot wait” to reintegrate Ronaldo
Ten Hag said (via the Manchester Evening News): “No. It’s the same as last week. Of course, concerning is maybe not the right word (over his absence).
“I focus on the players who are there and they are doing really well. They are in good shape and I have further focus on that and develop that. I cannot wait for him to come in and then we will integrate him.”
Clearly, Ten Hag will not banish Ronaldo from his squad if his transfer wish backfires. Ronaldo showed last season he has plenty left to give, though whether he’s a fit for Ten Hag’s system is another matter entirely.
Elsewhere, Ten Hag reaffirmed United must make further additions this summer.
Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen have signed, while official confirmation of Lisandro Martinez’s arrival will come shortly.
Frenkie de Jong remains the big prize that is still eluding United. A move for Ajax winger Antony has also been heavily touted.
On the state of United’s window, Ten Hag added: “We signed Eriksen for the midfield department, so we are really happy with that. And yes, I am really happy also with our performances of our midfield department and offensive department at this moment.
“But I also know about this season – we talk about it in Bangkok and Melbourne – it’s a lot of games, the World Cup, so we need more options where you have a good team, and it’s not only about the team, you need a good squad to get the right results at the end of the season.
“So we have to strengthen the squad even more and we are looking around, but we also need the right players.
“There is a reason in a number of games you need more options in offence, clear. I think it’s vital if you want to get success, the season is really long but we still also have time to fill that in.
“Back in Manchester Eriksen, Martinez will join in, we have more options, I think they can quite quickly integrate into the team.”
Ronaldo reintegration a headache
United have looked explosive in pre-season without the Portuguese icon.
Anthony Martial has a new lease on life as the centre-forward. Today’s Transfer Gossip revealed his pre-season exploits have resulted in Ten Hag having new renewed faith in the Frenchman.
However, at 37, Ronaldo can only play up front and his return would push Martial out. Martial could return to the left wing of course, though that would leave Marcus Rashford in the lurch who has also hit top form in pre-season.
Of course, injuries may make any selection decisions Ten Hag has easier than with a full compliment available. What’s more, it’s better to have too many options than too few.
However, if Ronaldo does remain in Manchester, whether he plays and who he displaces will be under the microscope every single week.