Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has warned Cristiano Ronaldo that he must prove he is worthy of a place in the Red Devils’ first XI.
The 37-year-old was at the centre of a turbulent summer transfer saga after allegedly making it clear that he wanted to leave Man United to compete in the Champions League.
Agent Jorge Mendes worked tirelessly to try to find Ronaldo a new club, with the likes of Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Napoli and Sporting Lisbon all linked at one stage.
However, no concrete offers were received for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who missed a large chunk of Man United’s pre-season due to personal issues.
Ronaldo has since started just one of Man United’s five Premier League games in the 2022-23 season, playing the full 90 minutes of the 4-0 loss to Brentford last month.
Ten Hag has elected to bench Ronaldo for the Red Devils’ other four domestic matches, and while he has come on as a substitute in all of them, he is still awaiting his first goal contribution.
Ahead of the visit of Premier League leaders Arsenal to Old Trafford on Sunday, Ten Hag has insisted that Ronaldo must work as hard as any other player to return to the first team lineup.
“I will be his friend. Sometimes I will be his teacher. It depends on the situation,” The Telegraph quotes Ten Hag as saying. “As we all know, he didn’t have the pre-season and you can not miss the pre-season.
“Especially the game we play, the way of play is not the type in comparison with last year. It depends, (and) demands, co-operation and demands certain positioning, in and out of possession. And the other thing is the fitness.”
Ronaldo ended his first season back at Man United with 24 strikes and three assists from 38 competitive outings, including 18 goals from 24 Premier League appearances to help the club finish sixth.
Ten Hag also sang the praises of defensive newcomer Lisandro Martinez, who has recovered from a difficult start to form a solid partnership with Raphael Varane in the heart of defence.
There were initial concerns that Martinez’s 5ft 9in frame would be a hindrance in the Premier League, and while Ten Hag has been impressed with his ex-Ajax star, he ultimately expects more from him in the coming months.
“I wanted him. Ball-playing but also you see his defending capabilities. His toughness, his positioning, his anticipating. Togetherness. I know what he is able to do. He has pace. He is doing well but he has to do much better,” Ten Hag added.
“The players who we signed are internationals for their countries. Secondly, they have performed really well in the Champions League. And third also, they have individual skills, they are capable of playing high-intensity football, the players we selected. The players we recruited.”
The Dutchman also has big selection calls to make over Casemiro – who has acted as a substitute since his arrival – and Antony, who is poised to make his debut after joining from Ajax for £85.4m.
Victory for Man United on Sunday could see them rise to fourth place in the Premier League table if Brighton & Hove Albion cannot match or better their result against Leicester City.