Cristiano Ronaldo needs to get fitter and become more selfless if he wants to play a major part in Erik ten Hag’s new Manchester United.
United’s Dutch manager is pleased Ronaldo remains at the club after the transfer window but is clear the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has to adapt to the changing philosophy at Old Trafford rather than the other way around.
Ronaldo, 37, has started only once under ten Hag — the 4-0 defeat at Brentford — after missing the club’s tour to Australia for personal reasons, and he is likely to be on the bench again against Arsenal on Sunday as United have won three on the trot with a high-tempo attack of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes. The £85million deadline day signing Antony is also in contention.
I will be his friend, sometimes I will be his teacher. It depends on the situation,’ said Ten Hag about his carrot-and-stick approach to Ronaldo. ‘As we all know, he didn’t have the pre-season and you can not miss the pre-season.
It depends, demands, co-operation and demands certain positioning, in and out of possession. And the other thing is the fitness.’
Ten Hag has impressed in his short tenure at United. His manner, both on the training pitch and to the outside world, is clipped and to the point.
He also shares with United great Sir Alex Ferguson the ability to make big decisions. Axing Ronaldo, captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Fred after the Brentford shambles was a risk, but has paid off so far.