Erik ten Hag issues an ultimatum to Ronaldo: apologize or leave United.
Erik ten Hag has told Cristiano Ronaldo that he must apologize and demonstrate contrition before bringing his stroppy striker back into the fold at Manchester United.
Ronaldo trained alone yesterday after being dropped from United’s squad to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight due to his “unacceptable” behavior against Tottenham on Wednesday.
The United manager confirmed Ronaldo had refused to come on against Spurs in addition to disappearing down the tunnel and leaving Old Trafford before the game had finished, the second time in three months he had fled before the final whistle without permission.
Ten Hag said he did not want to be without Ronaldo and did not anticipate the punishment extending into a second week, but left little room for interpretation as he nodded when asked if the player’s return depended on him showing contrition and abiding by the rules.
“We will first talk,” Ten Hag said. “We set certain standards. That is for any player. I think everyone understands that both [actions] are not acceptable, so I don’t want to grade it (which is worse).
“Both are not acceptable and that is why he gets some days off. He has to live, like anyone else, along certain standards and the standards we set this season.”
With Anthony Martial nursing a back injury that has kept him out of the past three matches, Ronaldo’s absence against Chelsea will leave United short of options up front.
But Ten Hag insisted there had to be “consequences”, especially as Ronaldo was already on a warning after leaving a pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano early.
“It is a difficult decision, it’s clear,” Ten Hag said. “But there have to be consequences for bad behavior and when it is the second time. You can’t let it go, otherwise, it will be miserable in the future. I don’t like it because I prefer the squad with Cristiano on board.”
Ronaldo offered no apology during a 170-word statement he posted on his Instagram account on Thursday, just hours after United confirmed the 37-year-old had been dropped for the Chelsea game.
United is due to play at least nine more games before the transfer window opens on January 1 but, while Ten Hag said the door remained open for Ronaldo and waved away the idea of him having played his last game for the club, the manager warned the striker that he could face a fans’ backlash. The earliest Ronaldo could be considered for selection is Thursday’s home Europa League tie against Sheriff Tiraspol.
“He has to be aware that you get [judged] by the moment and how you are acting today,” said Ten Hag, who would not confirm if Ronaldo had been fined. “In top sport, it is about today, it is not about age or reputation. You get judged by the moment and how you act.”
Ronaldo arrived at United’s Carrington training base around 8.30 am yesterday and did an individual session with club fitness coaches before leaving in his black Bentley around 1 pm.
The five-time World Player of the Year wanted to leave United in the summer and is now eyeing a January exit, but his refusal to play appears to be putting off potential suitors. Marseille has ruled out the possibility of signing Ronaldo by insisting he does not align with a club ethos that prioritizes the collective. Ten Hag’s decision to axe Ronaldo received the full backing of United’s hierarchy.
“When I got appointed, I talked to the directors about top sport culture, standards,” he said. “To get top sport culture and to set the highest standards, we have to live them.
“It will be a [time for] reflection for him [Ronaldo], but also for everyone else. I sent a warning at the start of the season. Next time, there have to be consequences.”