United terminated Ronaldo's contract by mutual consent two days before Portugal's World Cup campaign began after he gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan on Talk TV in which he criticised the club and Ten Hag; the Dutchman told MUTV: "He's gone and it's the past"
Wednesday 7 December 2022 12:47, UK
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag says he has put the Cristiano Ronaldo situation behind him as he addressed the forward's departure for the first time.
United terminated Ronaldo's contract by mutual consent two days before Portugal's World Cup campaign began after he gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan on Talk TV in which he criticised the club and Ten Hag.
Ronaldo said he felt "betrayed" by people at the club for trying to force him out and that he has "no respect" for Ten Hag because "he doesn't show respect for me".
The Dutchman, who is in Spain with the United players not at the World Cup for a winter training camp, told MUTV: "He's gone and it's the past.
"We are now looking forward and we're looking to the future", added Ten Hag ahead of Wednesday night's friendly against Spanish top-flight side Cadiz.
Ronaldo, who is now free to find another club, has played down talk of a deal being agreed for him to join Saudi club Al Nassr, saying the reports are "not true".
The 37-year-old has failed to set the World Cup alight so far and was dropped for Tuesday night's last-16 encounter against Switzerland, with his replacement Goncalo Ramos' hat-trick inspiring a 6-1 thrashing.
United went into the World Cup break on a high after teenager Alejandro Garnacho's last-gasp winner clinched a 2-1 victory at Fulham to leave them three points off fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.
Ten Hag has had a transformative impact on the performances at Old Trafford after what was a nightmare start, losing their first two games of his tenure to Brighton and Brentford.
"I have the feeling, we have the feeling, that we are in the right direction, but we also know that it's still a lot of work to do for us here," he added.
A key aspect of United's improvement from last season - the club's worst finish in the Premier League era - has been the recruitment under Ten Hag.
Lisandro Martinez and Antony from Ajax, Casemiro from Real Madrid and Christian Eriksen on a free transfer have all played a big role for United since arriving in the summer, helping to improve the character in a squad that was widely maligned for its attitude problems in previous seasons.
Asked if the mentality of these signings was key, Ten Hag said: "Yes. We looked and with football players clearly that is the first thing, the capabilities a player has.
"The human being behind is also an important factor, but you can't underestimate that. You need the right characters in your dressing room, not only if you want to win a game but if you want to win trophies."
Reports have suggested United could dip into the transfer market again in January to replace Ronaldo, with Ten Hag's already limited forward options now further weakened by the 37-year-old's exit.
Netherlands duo Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo are reportedly of interest for Ten Hag, having helped Netherlands to the quarter-final of the World Cup where they will take on Lionel Messi's Argentina on Friday night.
Ten Hag's been paying close attention to how his players are getting on at the World Cup, with 11 members of the squad still competing at the tournament in Qatar after successfully reaching the last eight.
United return to action against Burnley in the Carabao Cup round of 16 on December 21, three days after the World Cup final, and Ten Hag has warned there will be no rest for his players returning from the World Cup.
"We had a plan, we have prepared the players with what the plan is so there can't be any confusion about what the programme is," said Ten Hag.
"We make the players aware of the fact that, after you are out of the World Cup, you have to return to the club and the league immediately goes on.
"You have to be ready for that, but I think our players are used to it. Our players are winners, and they are battling now for the World Cup, and in the moment they are out - hopefully one is the winner - they have to deal with that. With the success they have, or the defeats, they have to deal with it and of course they have to be ready for another challenge."