Man United boss outlines Ronaldo plans
Manchester United's new boss Erik ten Hag has again stated that Cristiano Ronaldo is central to his plans for the forthcoming season, even as further rumors emerge that the Portuguese star is seeking an exit strategy from Old Trafford.
Ronaldo has been heavily linked with a transfer away from the club after they failed to secure Champions League football following a disastrous 2021-22 campaign co-authored by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, after him, Ralf Rangnick.
It was reported that Ronaldo asked the club to accept any reasonable bids for his services, with his agent Jorge Mendes understood to have approached several of Europe's biggest clubs to offer his client's services - though many of them have ruled out signing the 37-year-old player, who still commands one of the highest salaries in European football.
However, the market for Ronaldo clearly isn't as robust as it once might have been.
One by one, top clubs began to distance themselves from moves for international football's all-time top goalscorer.
Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and maybe a few more either by words or deeds all ruled out bringing in a player with prodigious goalscoring ability - for fear, it is thought, of inciting a similar malaise which affected Manchester United's dressing room last season.
This has presented the player and his employers with an uncomfortable truth: Ronaldo might well be at Manchester United next season. And it would be against his own wishes.
Publicly, United and Ten Hag are putting a brave face on the matter despite suggestions that the Ronaldo's style of play is maladroit to the new ethos that the Dutchman wants to infuse into his side.
His Ajax team was known for its extreme pressing from the front; an attribute which this vintage version of Ronaldo simply doesn't come equipped with, but as part of a media drive this week while on preseason tour with his club Ten Hag was quick to challenge this narrative.
“Cristiano is capable of [pressing from the front],” Ten Hag told The Guardian. “In his career he has shown everything.
“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.
“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.”
Whether or not these statements contradict what is actually going on behind the scenes remains a significant question. Is Ronaldo and his representatives continuing to agitate for a move away, and if so, how does this interact with Ten Hag's plans for next season?
Ronaldo, or more succinctly, his 24 goals from the last campaign, will need to be replaced - or at the very least addressed - but the continuing shroud of uncertainty surrounding the player clearly threatens to undermine the atmosphere of Ten Hag's brave new world in the red half of Manchester.
Ronaldo does not yet appear to have given his true blessing to the new regime, and Ten Hag confirmed that he has not yet held a true summit with the player over his future - whatever, or wherever, that may be.
The Dutchman offered a simple but telling reply when asked if he has spoken with Ronaldo while he remains absent from the club's preseason plans in Australia.
“The same status as last week in Bangkok,” he said. “No change.”
But change has indeed come at Old Trafford - and it's still unclear if Ronaldo is to be a part of that.