Home » Once was a warning, twice was a lesson: Erik ten Hag sticks to his guns with Cristiano Ronaldo

Once was a warning, twice was a lesson: Erik ten Hag sticks to his guns with Cristiano Ronaldo

by Seth Dooley

During last night’s victory against Tottenham Hotspur, Cristiano Ronaldo made a rather shocking choice to depart Old Trafford after having refused to come on as a substitute.

Manchester United put in their best performance of the season (arguably, of recent seasons) against fellow top four contenders Tottenham. Fred and Bruno Fernandes were on the scoresheet as, once again, Marcus Rashford was preferred to Ronaldo to start up front.

Erik ten Hag was asked after the match about Ronaldo’s despicable decision, simply stating, ‘I will deal with that tomorrow.’ He has stuck to his word.

Mail Sport had naturally reported ‘Ten Hag was furious with Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to head down the tunnel before the final whistle against Tottenham.’

The Dutchman is notoriously strict on discipline and expects his players to share these dedicated professional values.

When a youth player arrived late twice to team meetings during preseason, Ten Hag removed him from the drafted starting eleven for the next friendly match.

Another statement from preseason shares a shockingly similar air to the occurrences last night. When United hosted Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford, Ronaldo left the stadium before the final whistle.

Ten Hag spoke on the matter at the time,

‘I certainly don’t condone this […] I told them that it was unacceptable. We are a team, a squad, and you should stay until the end.’

Ronaldo had been desperate for a move away from United over the summer but, despite Jorge Mendes’ best efforts, no top clubs showed any real interest in such transfer.

Ten Hag was said to be very content in allowing the ego-fuelled 37-year-old to leave. This judgement has been evidenced through the consistent benching of Ronaldo this season. Moreover, Ronaldo was also seen to be over-exaggeratingly shaking his head in disapproval when he was brought off during the draw with Newcastle United, yet another sign that his personality does not align with the laconic Ten Hag.

Joel Glazer supposedly acted as a barricade in preventing Ronaldo’s departure, holding the view that the Portuguese’s commercial value is too large an asset to hastily axe.

Yesterday’s match marks the second fixture against a ‘Big Six’ club during which Ronaldo was not substituted onto the pitch – the first being the Manchester Derby. But, of course, yesterday’s reasoning was starkly different.

In refusing to be substituted on against Tottenham, the lack of respect for the United badge, his teammates, manager, fans, or even for his own professionalism, is glaring – especially when the £515,000 weekly salary is considered.

As a result of these cumulative factors, Ten Hag should feel justified in his epoch-making decision to drop Ronaldo from training until further notice. He can sit in the comfort of his side’s superior performances and results when the petulant star is not on the pitch.

Reports are already suggesting that United would be willing to release Ronaldo. David Ornstein has also revealed that United would be willing to enter the market for a new striker in January should Ronaldo leave.

Ten Hag has not only stamped his authority onto this squad, but has embedded himself into football history – simply by sticking to his treasured principles which have seen him progress to the stage at which he now finds himself.

By dropping Ronaldo from the first team squad for the crucial upcoming fixture against Chelsea, the manager has displayed that the Vallecano incident was a warning. The Tottenham debacle has served as a subsequent lesson. And with such, it is difficult to see how Ronaldo – or any other player who disgruntles Ten Hag more than once – could ever regain the manager’s trust.

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