Ten Hag insists Cristiano Ronaldo still has a future at Manchester United after the Portugal star suffered the embarrassment of being dropped for his side’s rousing 2-1 win against Liverpool.
United looked far more dynamic without Ronaldo as they stunned Liverpool to end a dismal run of two successive defeats at the start of the Premier League season.
With the aging Ronaldo reduced to a substitute appearance in the closing minutes at Old Trafford on Monday, United were finally able to successfully deploy Ten Hag’s aggressive game plan.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga formed an attacking triumvirate that gave United the pace and energy they lacked in the 2-1 defeat against Brighton and the subsequent 4-0 humiliation at Brentford.
Vindicating Ten Hag’s decision to axe Ronaldo and igniting fresh debate about his future, it was Sancho who scored United’s opener and Rashford who doubled their lead.
After missing United’s pre-season tour due to “family reasons” amid reports he had told the club he wanted to leave, Ronaldo was already unsettled heading into the new season.
United’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League convinced Ronaldo he should quit a club without a major trophy since 2017, giving Ten Hag a major headache just weeks after his arrival from Ajax.
But, with United insisting Ronaldo is not for sale, the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker has found himself in limbo.
The 37-year-old, who finished as United’s top scorer last term, hardly appeared committed to the Ten Hag regime when he walked out of Old Trafford before full-time after being substituted during a pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano.
A limp substitute appearance in the second half of the Brighton defeat was further evidence of a potential rift between the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and his manager.
Ronaldo played the entire 90 minutes of United’s loss against Brentford, but he offered little attacking threat in one of the club’s worst results in recent memory.