Former Manchester United skipper Roy Keane has accused the club of “showing disrespect” to Cristiano Ronaldo by leaving him sitting on the substitutes’ bench.
The 37-year-old Portuguese superstar, who has started just one Premier League game this season, did not make it on to the pitch during Sunday’s 6-3 derby drubbing at Manchester City with manager Erik ten Hag later revealing he did not use him as a mark of respect.
However Keane, who played alongside Ronaldo during his first spell at Old Trafford, insists the reverse is true and that the club would have been better off allowing him to leave during the summer just a year after his sensational return.
Speaking after the game, the Irishman told Sky Sports: “I think Man United are just showing disrespect to Ronaldo. I think he should have been let go before the transfer window.
“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.
“He had options – this idea that he’d no options is rubbish, he did have options, four or five very good options.
“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.
“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.”
Keane’s comments came as he surveyed the wreckage of a defeat he described as “hugely embarrassing”.
Hat-tricks from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden saw the reigning Premier League champions, who led 4-0 at the break, cruise to victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Keane said: “Man City were magnificent. Watching Man City, it is a pleasure. Watching them live, they are one of the best teams I’ve ever seen.
“But Man United, [it’s] a huge setback for them. We were giving them a little bit of praise over the last few weeks, but this is a huge step back.
“Four-nil down at half-time – they were 4-0 down at Brentford – and the performance in the second half, it’s no good, even as consolation. They scored a few goals – the game’s over.
“There’s nothing for Man United to take out of this game. From the players’ point of view, they really should be embarrassed. You can’t go in at half-time 4-0 down in a derby game, it’s hugely embarrassing.
“Haaland and Foden were brilliant, but if they’re getting the service from people like De Bruyne and you’re giving him time and space, you’re looking for trouble, and they got punished and rightly so.
“This game is brutal. When you’re not quite at it, you get hammered by your local rivals. They should be embarrassed.
“I just can’t imagine going into a dressing room at a big club like Manchester United and you’re 4-0 down at half-time.
“It must be bizarre – but saying that, they must be getting used to it because they did it at Brentford.
“The manager must be scratching his head with his staff and thinking, ‘We’ve made progress over the last four games’. Huge setback.”
Keane’s former team-mate Gary Neville was equally critical of the performance.
Neville, speaking in his role as Sky Sports’ co-commentator, said: “The story of the game is that in the first half Manchester United froze. There’s no doubt they bottled it.
“There has been promise in the last few weeks from United. But this is a reminder of how far behind they actually are the best team in the country.”