Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has explained why he has started Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Despite Anthony Martial missing the clash against the Seagulls due to injury, the former Ajax manager has opted to start the 37-year-old on the bench.
Reaction from Erik ten Hag of Manchester United as the south coast team beat their hosts 2-1 in the Dutchman's first English Premier League game in charge of United on Sunday. It was Brighton's first win at Manchester United in the club's history.
"Cristiano Ronaldo is now maybe for ten days in team training and that's too short for for 90 minutes. So that's the reason we didn't start him", he said.
"I think it was a good start (to the game). And then after that, we dropped a level, we dropped down in belief and we make mistakes and the opponent punishes. But I think it's a good opponent. They work long together. And, you know, when you make mistakes, you get punished for that against such teams".
"I know it could happen, but I think we should have done better. That's clear. But I know also that it will not come overnight. And sometimes we played better in the pre-season. Today, we had a really worse period during the first half. And we have to learn from that. That's also clear."
The scrutiny and speculation surrounding Ronaldo’s future has been constant throughout the summer since news broke from the Portuguese’s camp that he wanted to join a Champions League club.
Manchester United legend Roy Keane was speaking about Ten Hag’s decision to start the five-time Ballon d’Or winner on the bench, the Irishman wasn’t surprised, but he wants his former United teammate to stay at the club.
Keane said: “It was a straightforward call for the manager to make [starting Ronaldo on bench.”
“You can’t let Ronaldo go out the door and think Martial is going to be the answer, Martial isn’t the answer. He had a decent pre-season? Big deal.”
Ronaldo was United’s top scorer last season with 24 goals across all competitions, 18 of which came in the Premier League – only Mohamed Salah and Heung-Min Son scored more than the legendary Portuguese national captain.
Erik ten Hag says Cristiano Ronaldo is still lacking the match fitness required to start for Manchester United after missing much of the pre-season schedule.
United begin their new Premier League season at home to Brighton on Sunday, and Ten Hag will be hoping for three points to set the standard for the opening matches of the new campaign.
The Dutchman has named his side for the first match of the season, with summer signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez both making their competitive debuts for the club.
Due to personal issues, Ronaldo missed most of Manchester United’s pre-season schedule, only featuring in one game as he played 45 minutes in the club’s final friendly against Rayo Vallecano.
Ten Hag says this is the reason he opted to bench Ronaldo for United’s first Premier League game of the season.
Speaking ahead of the Brighton clash on Sunday, Ten Hag said: ‘Yeah, it’s been a short pre-season [for Ronaldo].
‘He only started training last week and has only had 45 minutes on the pitch. He’s not at the fitness levels as the rest of the team.
‘We saw this weekend in the Premier League they have been really tough, high-intensity games, pressing from the front. So you need to be fit to do that.
He’s working really hard to get to the right fitness levels. It will take time, which is normal. He started pre-season last week.’
Asked how far Ronaldo is away from starting, Ten Hag added: ‘We have to see, I cannot say because it depends on how quick he’s progressing. We will do everything to get the team to the fitness levels as soon as possible.
‘I cannot tell [if Ronaldo will feature today], I have to see the game.’
In midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay will act as a anchors with Christian Eriksen then playing further ahead. And, up top, Fernandes has been deployed alongside Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford as they look to claim all three points at the first time of asking.
Ronaldo has been named on the bench, however, having only just made his first appearance of pre-season against Rayo Vallecano last week. And Ten Hag has now opened up on his decision not to start the Portugal international.