DANNY MURPHY: Why Ten Hag must DITCH Cristiano Ronaldo at Man Utd

DANNY MURPHY: Erik ten Hag must DITCH Cristiano Ronaldo to show Man United stars who is in charge… if the Red Devils boss starts the wantaway forward without an apology after he walked out of a friendly early, he faces a lot of problems

  • Manchester United take on Brighton to open up their Premier League season
  • But boss Erik Ten Hag faces selection dilemma heading into Old Trafford clash
  • Without Anthony Martial, United start Ronaldo despite pre-season troubles 
  • Starting the Portuguese star has lots of power after he walked out of a friendly
  • Yet, Ten Hag will be left with a severely weakened side without the forward 

I was part of the Liverpool dressing room when Gerard Houllier told Paul Ince he had no future at the club. Incey was a brilliant captain, a great leader, hugely influential and one of the best midfielders this country has ever had.

But Houllier decided it was time for a new era and he didn’t care what Paul nor anyone else thought.

Everyone in that dressing room thought, ‘Wow, this guy means business’.

Erik ten Hag faces a huge call in whether to start Cristiano Ronaldo against Brighton

Erik ten Hag has gone into Manchester United, a huge club, and is trying to implement his own philosophy. Yet he’s doing so with a great deal of noise around him — and a lot of that noise is being created by Cristiano Ronaldo.

I think this is a wonderful chance for Ten Hag to make his mark. Go to the United hierarchy and say: ‘Let him go, I don’t need the problems.’

That would send a huge message and set a strong precedent, especially after Ronaldo’s show of petulance last week when he left Old Trafford before the end of the game.

That was Ronaldo flexing his muscles. It will be fascinating to see what Ten Hag does with his team selection on Sunday. Will he start Ronaldo or will he make a stand?

Ronaldo left Old Trafford early during United’s pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano

If he starts him, then he might as well say that Ronaldo can do what he wants, when he wants.

That has consequences. It belittles the manager and undermines his leadership and control.

Ronaldo leaving the game early is something that Ten Hag could — and should — have dealt with before it happened. He should have had a conversation with Ronaldo before the game to discuss how long he planned to play him and to make sure he was on board. Now it’s happened, though, what are the consequences? If I was Ten Hag, I would expect an apology.

Put it this way. If we did that under Houllier, we wouldn’t be playing the next game. I think that’s the same for lots of managers. Would Pep Guardiola stand for it? Would the Liverpool players do it under Jurgen Klopp? They don’t because they know there will be repercussions.

Ten Hag needs to show his Manchester United stars that he is the man now in charge

Ten Hag cannot afford more ill-discipline to run through the United camp this term

This has been the problem with United for years. There has been a lack of repercussions, whether it be for a bad performance, bad application or bad attitude. Now, this is about bad behaviour.

If Ronaldo stays but doesn’t play in every minute of every game, Ten Hag is going to have a problem. There is no way Ronaldo will want to be a squad player when he is at the end of his career and wants to keep scoring goals and breaking records.

So, Ten Hag has either got to put his arm around Ronaldo, back him or he has to get rid. There is no middle ground. If he tries to find an in-between, he will set his United project back a year.

But even having Ronaldo lead the line for United would go against the way Ten Hag wanted his team to play in pre-season.

In form Anthony Martial is ruled out injured for the opening day clash with Brighton

You will get great movement, cleverness and intelligence from Ronaldo when you’ve got the ball. It’s when you haven’t got the ball. At his age he hasn’t got the physicality any more to do both.

The problem is that if you take Ronaldo away, he leaves a gaping hole of goals that Ten Hag has to find a way to fill, especially now with Anthony Martial injured. The compromise might be to put him on the bench.

If Ronaldo is not in the squad it says a lot about Ten Hag and his determination to have a disciplined ship. If we see Ronaldo in the starting line-up without an apology or serious consequence, I think Ten Hag has set himself up for a lot of problems.

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