Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag claimed that he left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench in a 6-3 defeat to crosstown rivals Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday “out of respect for his big career.”
Ronaldo was again overlooked by the Dutchman for one of the Red Devils’ biggest matches of the season so far.
With 10 Champions League titles between them, the Portuguese and former Real Madrid teammate Casemiro were made to watch from the sidelines as their team fell 4-0 behind when Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored two goals each.
The two youngsters completed their hat-tricks in the second half, but United pulled two goals back through Antony and Anthony Martial.
Ronaldo wasn’t afforded a cameo, however, and was evidently frustrated at being snubbed for the match that finished 6-3 as Martial netted a 91st-minute penalty.
Asked why he had overlooked his star player in a post-match interview, the Dutch manager said Ronaldo didn’t play any part in the loss “out of respect for his big career.”
Ten Hag didn’t expand any further, but added: “And the other thing was the advantage I could bring Martial. He needs the minutes but I don’t want to point it out like that.”
Giving Ronaldo the cold shoulder did not impress retired club legend and Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane, who suggested that Ten Hag and United should have sold the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the summer when he handed in a transfer request if the plan was to freeze him out.
“I think the manager is holding on to him – okay, you say you need options, but you don’t hold on to Ronaldo to sit on the bench. He’s one of the greatest players ever,” Keane said.
“He had options – this idea that he’d no options is rubbish, he did have options, four or five very good options.
«𝙈𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙐𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙬𝙣 𝙣𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙍𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙙𝙤!» 😤Roy Keane believes Man United should have let Cristiano Ronaldo leave the club in the summer. pic.twitter.com/Zgs4vlItPG
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 2, 2022
“Okay, today the manager, he brought [Anthony] Martial on and he scored two, so yeah, that’s justified. But generally speaking, the bigger picture, he’s not going to play Ronaldo, we know that. He’s played in one or two European games,” Keane added.
“It’s just going to get uglier as the season goes on. Okay, Ronaldo’s motivated with the World Cup coming up, but if he’s sitting on the bench week in, week out, it’s not good, it’s just going to get ugly.
“I think United have shown nothing but disrespect to Ronaldo. They should have let him go when the opportunity came.
“As I said, he did have options to go, I know that for a fact, and holding on to him to sit on the bench I think is ridiculous for a player of his stature.”
Known Ronaldo fan and media personality Piers Morgan laid into Ten Hag too, tweeting: “Imagine benching Cristiano for Utd’s biggest game of the season, then using five other subs as they’re hammered into oblivion, & then claiming you did it ‘out of respect’ for him?”
“Ten Hag is an arrogant deluded twerp and the way he’s treating Ronaldo is disgraceful,” Morgan added.
With Ronaldo starting just one Premier League fixture since the former Ajax tactician took over the reins in 2022/2023, his fortunes could improve in upcoming fixtures against Omonia in the Europa League on Thursday and Everton on Sunday in the English top flight.
Following their defeat to second-placed City, United are down in sixth spot in the Premier League table, eight points behind Pep Guardiola’s team and nine adrift of league leaders Arsenal.