Erik ten Hag plans to keep Cristiano Ronaldo at the centre of his Manchester United blueprint
Erik ten Hag wants Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Manchester United. The club’s new manager believes it would be foolish not to retain the forward who has one year left on his contract and whose goals have carried United in an otherwise hugely disappointing campaign.
Ronaldo will be one of the first players Ten Hag talks to when he arrives at Old Trafford and despite a massive rebuild of the squad already being planned, which will include buying at least one striker, he wants the five-times Ballon d’Or winner to remain a key player.
Ten Hag is considering how to get the best out of United with Ronaldo in the team given he is 37 and clearly not as physically capable any more. The coach is not averse to building his line-up around Ronaldo, not least because he has so much work to do in other areas of the squad, to provide more chances for him.
It may also be that Ronaldo is told that he should not expect to start every game and this will be presented as an attempt to look after him and get the best out of him.
Ronaldo has scored 24 goals in 37 games in all competitions this season and Ten Hag’s reasoning is that such a return is difficult to replace especially as he already has to consider the new players he is intending to sign.
Ten Hag has also been impressed by the way Ronaldo has attempted to carry the team during this season’s adversity which has been even more evident in recent weeks.
Ralf Rangnick, the interim United manager, has already stated that he believes Ronaldo could still have a useful role to play next season although he also admitted that decision would rest with Ten Hag and Ronaldo himself.
It would also need Ronaldo to accept that he is going to miss out on Champions League football – for the first time in 20 years – in what might well prove to be his last season at a major European club. The indications are that he understands this and does not want to leave United on the back of a season that has been a failure.
After scoring in the 3-0 win over Brentford on Monday evening Ronaldo appeared to signal his determination to stay by declaring he was “not finished”. Ronaldo pointed to his chest and then the ground as he celebrated in front of the Stretford End after converting a penalty in the second half.
However, the United hierarchy, and Ten Hag, will not attempt to hold Ronaldo to his contract – he has one more year on his deal with an option for a further 12 months – if he wants to leave.
It is understood that Ten Hag is planning three major signings during the next window as the first step towards what will be a significant overhaul of United’s squad. Rangnick spoke about up to 10 new players being needed but this is expected to be carried out over a period of time – although quickly – and includes some young players.
United need to strengthen all over the pitch but the priority appears to be at centre-forward and central defence while there is also a lack of creative midfielders with the onus falling far too heavily on Bruno Fernandes, who recently signed a new contract taking him to 2026 and is extremely highly rated by Ten Hag.
With Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all out of contract, and Nemanja Matic leaving and Anthony Martial not expected to return after his loan spell with Sevilla, Ten Hag already has scope to making changes to his squad. The departures will also free up a huge amount of money in United’s wage bill.
Ten Hag will also ascertain whether or not Marcus Rashford wants to stay. It is understood the United forward’s preference is to continue although there have been strong indications from his camp that the 24-year-old is considering his future. At the same time there are senior figures within United who argue that it may be in the best interests of the England forward and the club if he makes a fresh start.
Rashford’s current contract runs until 2023 but there is an option to extend it by another year. Usually United would be holding talks over a new contract this summer but that will remain on hold until he has spoken to Ten Hag and it is decided whether he will continue at the club where he came through the academy.
Meanwhile, Rangnick yesterday claimed United’s board rejected his recommendation to sign a striker in January in a move which may have cost them Champions League football next season.
The interim manager said he told the club they should seek reinforcements in the final days of the January transfer window, with Mason Greenwood indefinitely suspended on January 30 following rape allegations, Edinson Cavani suffering with injury and Anthony Martial having left for Sevilla on loan.
“I was informed about the issue around Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial had already left, and then I was aware that within four days we had some strikers missing and that it might make sense (to buy),” Rangnick said.
“We were still in three competitions – the FA Cup, the Champions League, at the time we were fourth in the league…
“I spoke to the board and told them, ‘Shouldn’t we at least speak and analyse and find if we can at least get a player, on loan or a permanent deal?’
“In the end the answer was no. The answer was no, maybe they didn’t want to do any winter (business). It doesn’t matter, the answer was no.”
“I still believe we should have at least tried. If we would have found and been able within 48 hours (to sign a player), it would have been short notice but still, 48 hours is 48 hours. It might have been at least worth to try and internally discuss it. We didn’t. It was not done.”
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