Erik ten Hag has quite a job on his hands. The Dutchman took over at Manchester United this summer and has been tasked with elevating the once-great club from last season’s sixth-place finish to eventually challenging for the Premier League, something that once seemed to be their God-given right. It won’t be easy.
And to make matters worse, his summer is seemingly being defined by two transfer sagas – one incoming and one outgoing. The former relates to United’s seemingly hopeless pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who Ten Hag worked with at Ajax. The latter relates to Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave the club for pastures new as soon as humanely possible.
Frenkie has no interest at joining United and is determined to stay at Barcelona, the club he’s always dreamed of playing for. Cristiano has no interest in competing in the Europa League for the first time in his career – at 37, he’s aware his time is finite and still harbours ambitions of winning a sixth European Cup and drawing level with the great Paco Gento in the process.
Despite this, Ten Hag made clear to The Athletic that Cristiano still has a place at Old Trafford and that he wants him to stay. “We all know Ronaldo is a top professional and he will be fit, that is the last concern I have,” he said. “He is training.”
“I have set my demand. We want to play in a certain way. A top player can contribute and Ronaldo is an absolute top player in our squad. Cristiano is capable of doing that. In his career, he has shown everything. The players dictate the way you play.
“Especially players who score goals because they are extremely important for a team. You construct your team around them. I think we have scoring players and the first two games [during United’s pre-season] already showed that.”