Ahead of Sunday’s mouth-watering Premier League clash with unbeaten Arsenal, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has explained his decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo, warning the 37-year-old must “fit in our way of playing”.
Ronaldo has started just one game this season – the 4-0 defeat to Brentford – and has been used as a substitute for the last three games, all of which United have won.
Said to have demanded Champions League football this season, the Portugal international was constantly linked with a move away from Old Trafford during the summer, and it’s no surprise that Ronaldo has cut a frustrated figure on the bench having failed to engineer an exit from Manchester.
Ronaldo has been warned by his manager that he has to fit into his vision of the club.
Ten Hag has shown that he is not afraid to make the big decisions having also dropped club captain Harry Maguire after a disastrous start to the campaign.
“I do have emotion when I make decisions, use intuition and feelings but they have to be rational and strategic if you want to go in the direction where Manchester United want to go, and we all have to be on the same page,” Ten Hag told Sky Sports.
“I have to be clinical and ask what is the best for the club and the team and what is the process and to improve. I have to be transparent and clear and to communicate.”
Asked if Ronaldo understood this message and if Ten Hag would use him in big games, such as Sunday’s match against Arsenal, the Dutchman said: “He showed it last year and not that long ago so now he needs to fit in our way of playing, if he does that, he will decide the games because of his capabilities.”
The spotlight may well be on United’s new £86 million signing Antony, who joined the club on transfer deadline day.
Ten Hag, however, has no doubt that he can deal with the pressure of being one of United’s and the Premier League’s most expensive signings.
He said: “He can deal with that. He lives for football and enjoys it. He has proved himself already, he has been in the Champions League, Brazilian national team and an Olympic gold medalist.
“He will bring temperament and creativity. Also for him it is a new start and he has to adapt to the team, to the Premier League and to the high intensity, but I am sure he will adapt.”
Ten Hag also hinted that Casemiro will be handed his first start of the season on Sunday.
“I think so,” says Ten Hag. “He is used to playing big games.”
The deal to bring Antony takes United’s total spend during the transfer window in excess of £200m, building pressure on Ten Hag to get his side to perform.
“It is a lot of money,” he conceded.
“It is part of that and something we have to do to remain competitive. We have a squad with potential with good players now, and now we need to make a team.”