Cristiano Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure as he watched his Manchester United teammates get mauled by Manchester City, but he was left on the bench “out of respect”.
That’s what manager Erik ten Hag claimed after United were beaten 6-3 at the Etihad on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t bring him in out of respect for Cristiano and for his big career,” Ten Hag said. “The other thing was the advantage, I could bring Anthony Martial as he needs the minutes, but I don’t want to point it out like that.”
It was a move that worked well for Ten Hag as Martial scored a brace in the short time he was on the pitch to put a gloss on the game.
But the United players were roundly criticised for their display by Roy Keane, while Gary Neville explained what the Dutch boss must “analyse most” after his side “bottled it”.
Ten Hag admitted that his players were punished for being “undisciplined” and insists the result was “nothing to do with City”.
“It’s quite simple, it’s a lack of belief. When you don’t believe on the pitch then you can’t win games, that is unacceptable. We get undisciplined at following rules and you get hammered, that’s happened today,” Ten Hag said.
“For me, it was a surprise. We were not on the front foot, we were not brave on the ball and there were spaces to play but we were not brave enough.
“All the credit to City, but it’s nothing to do with City, our performance was not good. It had to do with the belief as individuals and as a team.
“From the first minute I felt it and at half-time we changed things and we changed attitude. We saw a different Manchester United after half-time and we scored goals, we created some more. On the ball we were braver, we came in the opponent’s half and we scored three goals.
“In this moment I can’t think about positives. We let our fans down, we let ourselves down and we’re hugely disappointed.”