"Cristiano Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad": Erik ten Hag clarifies star player's position at Man United
Erik ten Hag lended his support to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been rumoured to have been seeking a move away from Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo's future has been a significant point of discussion in this summer's transfer window, with reports coming out that he is seeking a move away from Manchester United due to the club's failure to qualify for the Champions League this season. There has been plenty of speculation about where the Portuguese legend could spend the next few years of his career — but Erik ten Hag, the new manager at United, has claimed that he is still part of the club's plans heading into the next season.
Speaking to ESPN in a press conference, ten Hag said "I am well informed he also has an option [to extend his contract until 2024] no? Of course I have signed here for three years, but in football it's short-term as well. We have to win from the start. So I don't look that far ahead." Ronaldo originally only penned a 2-year deal with the club when he signed last summer, but it appears as if he might choose not to see that contract out.
"I have a strategy, it's a process, it takes time, but in the end we have to make sure from the outset there is a winning team," continued the Dutch manager. Ronaldo is now 37 years old and the senior-most member of the team. In his first spell at United, between 2006 and 2009, he established himself as one of the best players in the world, and his return in 2021 was touted as a homecoming that would deliver United silverware. It wasn't to be, however, as United struggled through the season, and although the Portuguese superstar kept up his goalscoring form, it came at the cost of team cohesion.
Ronaldo has also not joined United's preseason training in Australia, although other first-team players such as countryman Bruno Fernandes have reported for duty. However, ten Hag claims this does not affect his standing in the team. "He is training. I think we all know Ronaldo is a top professional and he will be fit, that is the last concern I have. I think Cristiano is capable of doing that. In his career he has shown everything," said the new manager.
"I have set my demands. We want to play in a certain way. A top player can contribute and Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad." United are slightly short in attacking options, with Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani leaving the club after the expiry of his contract, and Mason Greenwood not having played since January due to his legal misdemeanors. However, the return of Anthony Martial from loan, and his good form in the friendlies against Liverpool and Melbourne Victory, are cause for optimism.
"The players dictate the way you play. Especially players who score goals, because they are extremely important for a team. You construct your team around them," concluded Ten Hag. Although Ronaldo's future is undecided and he might well be moved on if the buyer and the fee are right, at the moment, his manager seems to view him as part of the team at the English club.
Ronaldo has reportedly been turned down by Chelsea, Bayern Munich, and Paris Saint-Germain, but will still be on the hunt for teams that are willing to take him and his wages on. He is currently spending time with his family following a personal tragedy towards the end of last season.
Meanwhile, United prepare to face off against Crystal Palace at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a preseason friendly on Tuesday, hoping to build fitness and momentum ahead of the start of the new Premier League season in August.