Erik ten Hag

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has no doubt that forward Cristiano Ronaldo can fit into his system, but he must prove himself first.

Ronaldo’s future at United has been the subject of intense speculation all summer with the 37-year-old wanting out as United have no Champions League football this season, just a year after he made a sensational return from Juventus in 2021.

The wantaway Portuguese star did return to United training last week and made his first appearance under the new manager in Sunday’s final pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford.

He caused further controversy by leaving before the end of their 1-1 friendly draw against the Spanish side, something new boss ten Hag has since labelled ‘unacceptable’.

Despite plenty being made about whether Ronaldo still has the ability to press from the front and play in a modern system that ten Hag tends to implement at United.

The former Ajax manager believes there is certainly a place for him in the side but he will need to earn it, especially given the form of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho as a front three during pre-season.

‘I think he can,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘But to start with he has to get fit, he’s just started.

‘He is a fantastic football player, he proved it so many times, but you can always be judged on what you are now, what you are presenting now, performing now.

‘So the team and Cristiano himself have to prove it.’

The former Real Madrid star has had a disrupted pre-season as he didn’t travel with the rest of squad on their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia due to family reasons. Instead, he remained in Portugal and trained alone.

Frenchman Martial instead led the line for United in pre-season and notched three goals – making Ronaldo’s situation even worse.

Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid have all previously been linked with a summer move for Ronaldo but all three clubs have distanced themselves from those reports.

United, however, United have so far maintained that he is not for sale, with the former Juventus forward still having one year remaining on his contract.

United kick off their Premier League campaign at home to Brighton on Super Sunday.

Ronaldo is reportedly set to start on the bench amid ongoing uncertainty over his future at the club.

The Dutch manager is set to reward Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford with a place in the starting XI after impressing during their pre-season campaign.


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