Man Utd welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo back to training this week after Erik ten Hag chose to give him another chance.
Erik ten Hag has earned huge plaudits for the way in which he has dealt with the ongoing Cristiano Ronaldo saga at Manchester United. Now it is down to the Portuguese striker to make sure it wasn’t done in vain.
Ten Hag stamped his authority by quickly axing Ronaldo from the team to face Chelsea at the weekend but never totally froze out the forward, making it clear he still wanted him to be a part of the squad going forward.
The United manager wanted to know if Ronaldo was committed to his project before welcoming him back into the fold, but he has now received enough assurances to bring him back into the group for the first time.
The way the Dutchman has handled things has been a breath of fresh air, but having established that the power is firm with him rather than with the players, it is now time for football to take center stage once again.
Ronaldo must accept that he is no longer the same undroppable he was last season, but with no chance of a move until January at the earliest, he must bite his tongue for the time being and focus on club commitments before a chance of escapism with Portugal at the World Cup.
The dilemma for Ten Hag now is whether he should bring Ronaldo back into the squad, and possibly even the starting line-up, for the game against FC Sheriff tomorrow night.
Ronaldo’s reintegration into United training on Tuesday was granted on the condition that he accept responsibility for his actions, and now that he is allowed to train with the first team, surely the precedent is set for him to play with them as well.
Ten Hag may have wanted to ease him back in gradually, but with a striker shortage, he may not have any other viable options against Sheriff.
There is extra mitigation to give Ronaldo a chance too, given that the nature of the match against Moldovan opposition is an opportunity to give fringe players a chance, and in the case of the Portuguese forward, give him the limelight and a chance to boost confidence that could benefit United in the long run.
Throwing him back into the lineup on Thursday night suddenly puts all of the pressure on Ronaldo again, and for a match, they are expected to comfortably win, the focus will be on whether or not the Portuguese star is really up to the challenge.
In the wake of his latest strop, much of the analysis focused on whether or not Ronaldo would actually be considered a loss to the United side, given he has only scored two goals at all this season.
Even without those two strikes, the mood around United wouldn’t be much different from how it is now, given just how limited his impact has been on their progress this season.
There can be no denying that United have played far worse when Ronaldo has been in the team this season, and they might need to do just that on Thursday night.