Eric ten Haag believes Manchester United fans will be justified in getting involved Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward refused to come on as a substitute and left in the tunnel during Wednesday’s win over Tottenham.
Ten Hag suspended the 37-year-old from Saturday’s trip to Chelsea and ordered him to train with the club’s under-21s, explaining that as manager he was responsible for “setting standards and values” at the club. He said Ronaldo could have no complaints if there was a backlash, but first noted that the Portugal international deserved the tributes created by his supreme success.
“I think it’s justified because he’s achieved so much in his career – it’s so brilliant,” he said. “But he also needs to know what you always get [judged] at the moment and how you are doing today. Especially in top sports, it’s about today. It’s not about age or reputation. When you play the ultimate sport, you are judged by the moment and by your behavior; it’s normal. We have to be aware of that – everyone, not just Cristiano, as a team, as a manager and as a club.”
Ten Hag was adamant when asked if United fans deserve an apology from Ronaldo his actions on Wednesday showed disrespect to their club.
“He has to live up to certain standards and standards that we’ve set this season like anybody else,” he replied.
The United manager said Ronaldo will train with the first team again on Monday, provided they have successful discussions beforehand. “We will talk first,” he said, but added that he had no intention of prolonging the player’s absence. “This is not my goal. I don’t want to miss him – I want him in the team and in every game because he makes an impact.”
Ten Haag has insisted he does not want Ronaldo to leave in the January transfer window. “It’s a guess,” he said of a possible departure. “I count on Christiana [until the end of the season].”
Ten Hag is believed to be supportive of Ronaldo’s departure, with Richard Arnold, United’s chief executive, backing him in the event, although the player’s wages of around £500,000-a-week mean an agreement with another club is difficult. Then there is the matter of signing a replacement centre-forward of the right quality.
Ten Haag stated the importance of maintaining elite culture. “I am the manager, I am responsible for the highest sporting culture here and I have to set standards and values and I have to control them,” he said.
The Dutchman referred to the fact that Ronaldo had previously left Old Trafford until the end of July in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano after being substituted at half-time. “After Rayo Vallecano, I said [him] it was unacceptable, but he was not the only one. But it’s for everyone, so if it happens a second time, there will be consequences. This is what we have done now.
“We miss him tomorrow – I don’t like it because I prefer a team with Cristiano on board. But for the team it is important for the attitude and mentality of the group and now we have to focus on Chelsea because that is the most important thing.
“Expectations from Manchester United really high. Ambitions are high. Our fans, all our stakeholders expect results, so you have to perform to a certain standard and work for it every day. Cristiano is not in the squad but is training to keep himself fit in preparation for the next game after Chelsea.
Ten Hag made the decision to suspend Ronaldo despite Anthony Martial, his other No.9, remaining injured.