New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will be part of his plans for next season.
The Dutchman, 52, was unveiled as the Red Devils’ new boss on Monday morning and faced questions from British journalists for the first time since taking the job. Ten Hag arrives at Old Trafford after winning six trophies – including three Eredivisie titles – at Ajax.
Ten Hag is aiming to turn United’s fortunes around after a dismal season under Ole Gunnar Solsjaer and Ralf Rangnick. They failed to win a trophy for the fifth consecutive year and finished sixth in the Premier League – 35 points behind champions Manchester City.
Some critics have pinned United’s struggles on Cristiano Ronaldo. The veteran, 37, has scored 24 goals in all competitions this term but isn’t renowned for his work ethic. A study in February suggested he covers less distance per 90 minutes than other United forwards.
United has also regressed significantly with Ronaldo in the team. They finished second in the Premier League and reached the final of the Europa League in 2020-21. The Red Devils won 16 fewer points in the league in 2021-22.
Despite this, Ten Hag wants Ronaldo to lead his attack. “Of course,” said the new United boss when asked if Ronaldo fits into his plans. When asked what he brings to the team, Ten Hag replied: “Goals… I talk first with Ronaldo before I talk with you.”
It’s not the first time Ten Hag has confirmed his desire to work with Ronaldo. “From tomorrow, my focus will be on United, and I will of course get deep into things there,” said the manager after his final game at Ajax.
“What I have to say about it is, the detailed analysis still has to begin, I still have to work with the team, but let me be clear that at United there are a lot of good players around. We have to make them function as a team but definitely Ronaldo, he is a giant.”
Ronaldo has previously said he’s excited to work with Ten Hag. “What I know about him is he did a fantastic job for Ajax, that he’s an experienced coach,” the Portuguese ace told the club’s website earlier this month. “Things need to change the way he wants.