Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford before full-time in Manchester United's 2-0 win over Tottenham as he stormed down the tunnel after being an unused substitute; the 37-year-old watched from the stands as United overcame Spurs to move within a point of Premier League's top four
Thursday 20 October 2022 17:53, UK
Erik ten Hag says he will "deal with" Cristiano Ronaldo after he left Old Trafford before full-time in Manchester United's 2-0 victory over Tottenham.
Unused substitute Ronaldo was seen walking down the touchline and up the tunnel in the closing stages of Wednesday's match at Old Trafford.
The 37-year-old watched from the stands as goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes saw United overcome Spurs to move within a point of the Premier League's top four, but Ronaldo saw enough when Ten Hag chose not to bring him off the bench.
Asked whether Ronaldo had spoke to him before walking down the tunnel before the completion of the match, United boss Ten Hag told Amazon Prime: "He was there, I have seen him, but I didn't speak with him."
In his post-match press conference, Ten Hag added: "I don't pay attention to that, I will deal with that tomorrow. I want to keep the focus on the team.
"It was magnificent from all 11 players. I have to correct myself. It was also a performance from the substitutes who came on. Once again, it was a squad performance. I think what we have seen is 11 players who defend and 11 who attack. I was pleased.
Sky Sports football journalist Jack Wilkinson:
Cristiano Ronaldo has a habit of grabbing the headlines, but not even his sulking departure could detract from another encouraging stride in the right direction taken by Erik ten Hag's players.
Ronaldo, an unused substitute, was unhappy with the watching brief he was handed as goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes earned a deserved 2-0 victory over Tottenham, but when United perform to such a high level, his frustrations are baseless.
From start to finish, United took a poor Spurs side to task, demonstrating their continued adaptation to Ten Hag's methods with an attacking display as comprehensive as any seen at Old Trafford in memory, let alone since the Dutchman took charge.
United's 28 attempts on goal was the most by any side in a Premier League match this season, the most Antonio Conte had ever conceded in his top-flight managerial career, and had it not been for the heroics of Hugo Lloris, the scoreline would have been just as emphatic.
With Ronaldo on the bench against Liverpool, Arsenal and now Spurs, games United have won with increasing proficiency, it's clear the club's transition to life without him is already under way. His petulance will only speed that up.
Dutch football expert Marcel van der Kraan on Sky Sports News:
"I don't think it will be a calm conversation. We have seen in the past in Holland when he was dealing with stars in his squad that he would make sure who was in charge.
"He is also known as a manager who is very stable, he's never been up or down in all his roles, his discipline, it's always been the same. That's also where his success comes from.
"It is the first time in his career that he's dealing with the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo. Never before has that kind of star acted against him. He said in the summer Ronaldo was one of his most important players. If he's fit, he will always be there, he said.
"He missed pre-season and Ten Hag made it very clear that was vital. There's only one way and it's the Erik ten Hag way. This is what will happen in today's conversation.
"It was interesting that he said last night that he would deal with it tomorrow. In the past he has not been shy of confronting somebody. There is a famous incident, only two years ago, with Noa Lang, a Dutch international, who was giving him a mouthful on the pitch in a big cup game.
"Ten Hag came off the bench and made very clear that was not accepted by him, shouted to him on the touchline in front of every television camera so everybody could hear it and the public behind the dugout. 'I decide what happens here and it's not your game, it is a team's game!' That was all audible. It also showed it's all about the team.
"I expect Ronaldo not to be part of the squad at United unless there is big financial motives for the club to keep him on if they have to give him too much money to go."
Former England and Premier League defender Danny Mills said Ronaldo's behaviour was reprehensible if true.
"If Ronaldo has done that, it's an absolute disgrace," Mills told Soccer Special. "That's disrespectful to the team, the manager, the fans.
"They are winning 2-0 - what complaint can he have? If they were losing 2-0, it wouldn't be right, but I would sort of understand it.
"He clearly thinks he's bigger than the football club... It's a selfish act after not being involved.
"He knows full well that everybody is going to see him walk all the way down the touchline at Old Trafford, it's not like he can sneak out.
"I feel sorry for United and Ten Hag because it's all going to be about Ronaldo instead of an outstanding performance against a top side."
However, Roy Keane offered a differing view on Ronaldo's situation when speaking on Sky Sports in the wake of United's 6-3 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City earlier this month.
After Ronaldo had once again been left on the bench - with Ten Hag saying he made the decision "out of respect" - Keane said: "I think United are showing disrespect to Ronaldo. He should have been let go before the transfer window.
"The manager kept him. OK, he said he wanted options. But you don't keep Ronaldo to sit on the bench. He is one of the greatest players ever.
"He had options [to move in the summer]. This idea he didn't have options is rubbish. He had four or five good options.
"The big picture is that Ten Hag is not going to play Ronaldo. It is just going to get uglier as the season goes on.
"United have shown nothing but disrespect to Ronaldo."
The Guardian's sportswriter Jonathan Liew:
"I felt quite sorry for him really. It's not an emotion I've generally associated with Ronaldo over the years.
"Nobody owes him a starting place in a big team, but this is also the one thing he's good at, he's dominated this game for years and now he's sitting on the bench in the 89th minute and his time is slipping away. I just felt this incredible pathos because he's only got one or two years left now at the top level.
"You can call it petulant or a drama queen but United knew who they were signing. You might not want Mick Jagger in your band, but if you do sign him up you don't get him to play the tambourine.
"I think they're in a real pickle because Ten Hag clearly has no use for him and I don't see where he goes from here to be honest.
"United were doing fine commercially before he joined, so I don't think they need him for commercial reasons, especially not if he's unbalancing the team, creating unnecessary headlines and especially if he doesn't fit into the vision of a high-energy pressing team that not just Ten Hag wants, but most elite European coaches want to play.
"It's going to be really hard for them to move him on because you need a team as dysfunctional as United were when they signed him to take him on and that's an increasingly vanishing number these days."
Ronaldo has a history of walkouts since he returned to the club 14 months ago.
The 37-year-old was an unused substitute during United's 2-0 win over Spurs on Wednesday and was seen walking down the touchline and up the tunnel in the closing stages of the match.
Earlier this season, Ronaldo was also seen leaving Old Trafford before the end of a 1-1 draw with Rayo Vallecano during the club's final pre-season friendly in August.
In October last year, Ronaldo was captured marching alone down the tunnel, seemingly muttering in frustration, after United were held to a 1-1 draw against Everton, for whom Andros Townsend scored and then mimicked the Portugal forward's trademark goal celebration.
Manchester United have run 10km less per game when Ronaldo has started in the Premier League this season.
Ronaldo earned his first league start of the campaign in the shocking 4-0 defeat to Brentford in August - playing the full 90 minutes.
Erik ten Hag's side covered just 95.5km collectively that day - only Fulham have run less in a match this term, against Newcastle earlier this month.
The Bees covered 13.8km more than United, prompting Ten Hag to order his team to run that very same distance in training the following day.
The Dutchman benched Ronaldo for the following six league games but handed him a second, and most recent start, in the goalless draw with Newcastle earlier this month.
In that game, United registered their second-lowest distance this season at 101.5km, with the Portugal forward being hooked off on 72 minutes with 7.3km covered.
Effectively, United have covered 10 per cent less distance when Ronaldo has lined up in the starting XI this term - a disparity which might have contributed to his dwindling game time.
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