With the opening day of the Premier League inching closer, fans have received a look at how Manchester United are shaping up under the stewardship of Erik Ten Hag.
The Red Devils put on impressive displays during initial pre-season fixtures, such as the 4-0 victory against Liverpool. The various friendlies instilled faith back into the United support, as Ten Hag’s high intensity and proactive style of play were visible on the pitch.
However, there are still numerous gaps that need filling.
Despite being busy in the market, United is still yet to deliver Ten Hag’s primary targets, namely Frenkie De Jong and Antony. A solid right-back option is also a requirement, and it appears that United haven’t been able to narrow down a target for the position yet.
The biggest question regarding Ten Hag’s side certainly has to be the status of wantaway striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The striker has reportedly been looking for a move away for quite some time now, and only reported back to training a few days earlier. He then returned to Old Trafford as a starter against Rayo Vallecano, a move which fans hoped would silence all the doubts around his situation.
Unfortunately, his appearance has done the opposite.
By missing almost the entirety of pre-season, the Portugal international was always going to look rusty. While that came to be true, fans also noticed certain signs that are far more worrying.
An example of which is displayed in this clip.
In it, Ronaldo can be seen dropping deep into the heart of midfield, a standard procedure to facilitate build-up play.
However, instead of picking the ball up and seeking solutions, Ronaldo chooses to play unnecessary one-twos with midfielder James Garner. Upon passing back initially, the 37-year-old pointed towards the left, perhaps asking Garner to switch the play. But after that fell through, Ronaldo opted to be extremely passive, despite possessing the quality to make things happen. Fans online found the footage to be concerning, as it potentially represents a lack of interest from the striker.
As for Ten Hag, he’s not one for mincing words, and as such, he made stance clear, and stated that Ronaldo will be required to put in the work.
The striker’s prestige and stature is enough to allow him to get away with just about anything, but evidently, the Dutch gaffer has a no-nonsense approach.
This is also typified by the former Ajax boss’ response to Ronaldo’s unceremonious exit from Old Trafford, well before the full-time whistle. The Portuguese wasn’t the only one who took his leave early, but of course, he was the one who all the cameras pointed towards.
The topic has since then become a constant matter of debate, with various opinions popping up. Soon enough, Ten Hag delivered his, and once again, he was very direct.
In an interview with Viaplay Sport, Ten Hag said “I certainly don’t condone this. This is unacceptable, for everyone. We are a team and you have to stay until the end.”
His comments look to have made one thing apparent, that Ronaldo will be held to the same standards as all the other players.
Or, at the very least, the Portugal international is not going to have a leisurely experience under Ten Hag, as the Dutchman simply takes no prisoners.