Amid reports Cristiano Ronaldo is not part of Erik ten Hag’s plans, Manchester United may have to sacrifice sentimentality to show their full support for the club’s incoming manager
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The Dutchman has reportedly agreed to become the Red Devils’ latest appointment in what is expected to be the first of many colossal changes at the club over the coming months. It appears he’s already considering which of United’s current crop to cull, and the squad’s biggest name of all looks set to be part of an impending exodus.
According to the Daily Star, Ten Hag deems Cristiano Ronaldo surplus to requirements and has given the prolific Portuguese striker the green light to seal a second Old Trafford exit this summer. Amid suggestions the superstar doesn’t suit his preferred style of play, Ten Hag appears intent on offloading the legend at the end of this season.
How the club handle the 52-year-old’s demands will be telling, and a key indicator of whether or not they are truly committed to change. As proven by his success with Ajax, Ten Hag favours the team unit over individuals so it comes as little surprise that Ronaldo doesn’t fit with the Dutchman’s philosophy.
For years, United have applied a scatter-gun approach to signings, succumbing to the temptation of sanctioning moves for stellar names, and a romantic return in the case of Ronaldo, over calculated recruitment. In order for Ten Hag to be a success at United, that simply has to change.
The club’s hierarchy clearly feel the current Ajax coach is the right man to return the club to its glory days of yesteryear but in order for that to work, they must give their imminent new manager the full backing he deserves. On two occasions in Amsterdam, Ten Hag has assembled tight-knit squads capable of going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite, and the hope from a United standpoint is that he will be able to replicate such success in Manchester.
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Ten Hag’s appointment should signal the start of a new dawn and a summer of change. It’s a chance for the club to alter their ways and learn from their mistakes – which include re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo, in the eyes of Jamie Carragher.
Back in February, the Liverpool icon reiterated the point in his Telegraph column, writing: “Cristiano Ronaldo’s invaluable contribution to Manchester United’s Premier League win over Brighton was another reminder of his unparalleled appetite for goals. But it does not change this reality: United made a mistake re-signing Ronaldo last summer. It will be a bigger one keeping him next season.”
He added: “‘Where would United be without his goals,’ is something you often hear. Well, we already have an answer to that. United scored 121 in all competitions in 2020-21, their highest tally for 14 years. That is because they were a more balanced, unified team than now.”
It appears on the face of it that Ten Hag is in agreement. The Dutchman clearly favours the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Ronaldo is a luxury player, capable of creating moments of magic as he’s proven so often this season. But right now, United cannot afford such luxuries. And Ten Hag seems to recognise this.
For the Dutchman to succeed, a lot is going to be required. Time. Patience. Investment. And an unwavering show of support that his approach is the way forward.
United must sacrifice sentimentality and accept that Ronaldo might not be a part of that project. Separation from the Portuguese superstar will no doubt be painful, but it will go a long way in the club showing their full backing of Ten Hag and that they are willing to learn from past mistakes.