CHRIS WHEELER: Cristiano Ronaldo dominates Man United’s agenda… even from 6,000 miles away! As hard as Erik ten Hag tried to shut down the subject, it will not go away any time soon
- Erik ten Hag was forced to answer lots of questions on Cristiano Ronaldo’s future
- The Manchester United manager was ready with an emphatic answer in Thailand
- Most of the questions ahead of his first game were about a man who wasn’t there
- The issue of wantaway star forward Ronaldo’s future isn’t going away for ten Hag
It was the big question Erik ten Hag knew he would face in Bangkok and Manchester United’s new manager was ready with an emphatic answer at the Rajamangala National Stadium on Monday.
What is Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation at the club and will he stay at United to play under Ten Hag?
‘We are planning with Cristiano Ronaldo for this season, so that’s it. I’m looking forward to working with him,’ was the reply.
If Ten Hag hoped that was the end of the matter, he was sadly mistaken. More than half the questions ahead of his first game as United boss against Liverpool this afternoon were about a man who isn’t here.
Ronaldo was always going to dominate the agenda, even from 6,000 miles away. Nine years after United faced a similar situation with Wayne Rooney on their last trip to Bangkok, David Moyes will have some sympathy with the new incumbent.
To be fair to Ten Hag, he met the issue head-on but did not waste his words. Not for him the chirpiness of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or the rambling soliloquies of Ralf Rangnick.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still dominating the headlines at Man United – even from 6,000 miles away
More than half of the questions aimed at new United boss Erik ten Hag ahead of his first match were on the future of the wantaway Portuguese star, who has admitted he wants to leave
As hard as the Dutchman tried to shut down the subject on Monday, it will not go away any time soon, possibly not until the transfer window closes at the start of September.
We are not expecting to see Ronaldo on tour in Thailand or Australia after he sought compassionate leave over a family issue.
It was surprising to hear Ten Hag admit that the only conversation between the two men was before Ronaldo expressed a desire to leave and that he has only read about it in the media.
You would have thought convincing a club legend and United’s leading goalscorer last season to stay at Old Trafford would be the first piece of business for a new manager but Ten Hag kept the details of his chat with Ronaldo close to his chest.
Ten Hag surprisingly admitted the pair have not had a conversation since Ronaldo’s outburst
‘That is between Cristiano and me,’ he said. ‘Only what I can confirm is that we had a really good conversation together. He hasn’t told me this (about wanting to leave). I didn’t speak to him after. I have read but what I say is that Cristiano is not for sale.
‘Cristiano is in our plans and we want to have success together.’ On the issue of United’s transfer business this summer and their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez, a tight-lipped Ten Hag was no more forthcoming.
‘I never talk about players who are not under contract at Manchester United,’ he replied.
‘We want to add the right players. Definitely we are searching for players in midfield and we have a need on offence. We are working to develop our way of playing and if the opportunity is there then we will strike.’
The Dutchman also confirmed defender Harry Maguire (right) will remain as the club’s captain
The other hot topic put to Ten Hag on Monday was that of the captaincy. Harry Maguire’s suitability to wear the armband has been the subject of some debate after a difficult season and Ten Hag was somewhat vague when asked about it at his unveiling in May.
However, he confirmed the defender will stay as skipper next season, adding: ‘He’s an established captain and he’s achieved a lot of success so I don’t have doubts about this issue.’
Maguire trained separately to his team-mates in Bangkok on Monday during a session watched by around 10,000 fans at the stadium, before Liverpool had their workout.
Ten Hag watched intently, speaking only intermittently and looking every inch the studious coach. These are early days but it is already clear he will be a man of action rather than words.
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