Erik ten Hag says he is “really happy” to have “top striker” Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, but did not reveal whether or not the 37-year-old will start against Brighton.
Ronaldo returned late for pre-season, citing ‘family reasons’. News of his prolonged break broke after it emerged that he wanted to leave the club.
Anthony Martial played the majority of the pre-season friendly schedule up front, but picked up an injury this week, ruling him out of the club’s Premier League opener against Brighton on Sunday.
This leaves Ten Hag in a potentially difficult situation having admitted that Ronaldo is nowhere near full fitness.
The Portugal captain played his only minutes in pre-season last weekend against Rayo Vallecano, featuring for the first half before being substituted.
Ronaldo, alongside many other players, was pictured leaving Old Trafford before the conclusion of the friendly, something Ten Hag described as “unacceptable”.
Unsurprisingly, the Dutch manager was asked about this during his pre-match press conference on Sunday, and the focus on Ronaldo and not the other players involved has left him less than impressed with the media.
“Now I have to point – those who left but there were many players who left, but the spotlight is on Cristiano and that is not right,” Ten Hag said.
“So I think then do your research and make out many players left, that was what was said.
“Good, but I don’t understand what is the relation. He was part of it. Again, there were a lot of players.”
There have been lots of teams linked with Ronaldo, though no club – except one based in Saudi Arabia – have offered the player a way out of Old Trafford.
Asked about Ronaldo’s position at the club, Ten Hag said: “I’m really happy.
“I told you before, we plan with the season (with him). We have a top striker and I’m really happy he’s here, he’s in the squad and we stick to that plan.”
On if the Portuguese striker will start against Brighton, Ten Hag responded: “We will see on Sunday.”
When asked if he is concerned about his lack of options up front, Ten Hag said he is still hoping to bring in more new recruits before the transfer window closes.
“We said before: we are still searching to strengthen the squad.”
The 52-year-old also confirmed the reports claiming that Martial will miss Sunday’s game: “Yes. It is always difficult to say with injuries [how long he will be out for]. I hope it is not for too long.”