Why didn’t Ten Hag start Ronaldo?

Karan Tejwani
Karan Tejwani 8 Aug 2022 07:34 BST 3 min read
Cristiano Ronaldo, Man Utd, 2022-23

Manchester United began their season with a 2-1 home defeat to Brighton, as Erik ten Hag’s tenure at Old Trafford got off to a difficult start, and he made one big decision before the game.

The Dutch coach had a fairly positive pre-season in his first season at Old Trafford, as the Red Devils impressed in Thailand and Australia, but things were different in the Premier League.

One of the big decisions was whether Cristiano Ronaldo would start, with the Portuguese player missing most of pre-season and lacking the fitness to play the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford.

Ten Hag opted to keep the number seven on the bench, starting with Christian Eriksen as the primary forward as Anthony Martial was injured, and the plan backfired, as United were toothless for much of the first-half.

Ten Hag explains Ronaldo decision

The Red Devils went 2-0 down in the first-half, and only managed to pull one back after a flurry of attacking moves in the second-half, once Ronaldo came on and Eriksen dropped into midfield.

The former Ajax boss explained his decision, and United’s struggles in getting the ball in the net in the first-half: "It is clear to see [that in] the second half we were better in midfield with Eriksen down and Ronaldo up. We created and Rashford had two good chances, it is a shame we did not score."

Ten Hag added: "If he was available, the striker [Martial], I would have played him. Cristiano Ronaldo is now 10 days in team training, too short for 90 minutes. That is the reason we didn't start him."

Ronaldo’s fitness was in question after he only played 45 minutes in pre-season in the team’s final friendly against Rayo Vallecano at the end of July.

The team’s top scorer was given time off, citing personal reasons, having made it clear to the club that he wanted to leave and move to a side where he could play Champions League football.

This would prove to be one of Ten Hag’s bigger decisions, having only joined Manchester United earlier in the summer and it may just influence his first season at Old Trafford.

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