Erik ten Hag’s design of Manchester United’s pre-season plans and his blueprint for the new campaign have been majorly disrupted by the Cristiano Ronaldo show.
The club had wanted to mark this week ahead of jetting off on tour with major recruitment and squad shape progress, but everything has been shadowed by the Portugal international communicating his desire to exit Old Trafford.
On the same day that the first signing of the Ten Hag era – Tyrell Malacia – is to be completed, Ronaldo was excused for not returning to training for “family reasons” amid his push for a departure.
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Kaveh Solhekol explains what could happen next for Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United after it was revealed he wants to leave the club this summer
He naturally dominates headlines and has undercut the feel-good factor from the manager’s opening week at Carrington, which Sky Sports News detailed had shifted not just the tactical and conditioning parameters but the mood at United.
Ronaldo represents United’s only guaranteed source of goals – he bagged 24 last season – and the club pivoted away from a No 9 to a more versatile forward this summer in the expectation that he would still be leading their line.
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Marcus Rashford, who was horribly off form in the previous term, and on-the-market Anthony Martial are their only senior options up front.
Talks have materialised for Ajax forward Antony, but new boss Alfred Schreuder indicated: “He has a contract until 2025. I want to work with him, and the club knows this.”
United had focused on fortifying midfield and defence: a basic agreement is in place with Barcelona for Frenkie de Jong, Christian Eriksen has verbally committed to join, advanced negotiations are happening for Lisandro Martinez, and a deal is tied up for Malacia.
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Remedying their attack in the long term has been paramount, but now immediately requires attention.
United insist Ronaldo is not for sale, but it is clear he is waiting on a formal offer to be made so he can push to leave.
The situation is unwelcome enough, but is all the more alarming in the context of their rivals.
Manchester City scooped United’s longstanding target Erling Haaland, with Liverpool sealing the Darwin Nunez deal sans competition from United as the player made it clear his destination of choice was Anfield.
Chelsea are expected to land Raheem Sterling, while Arsenal have added Gabriel Jesus and Antonio Conte now also has Richarlison at Tottenham.
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Peter Stevenson reports from Manchester United’s training ground where Tyrell Malacia has arrived to complete his medical but it appears there may be no Cristiano Ronaldo with his future at the club remaining uncertain
While cutting Ronaldo loose would offer Ten Hag the opportunity to create a fluid collective rather than tailor tactics to cater to a fading legend, United are already undergoing a massive overhaul and could have done without further upheaval.
The very public nature of the player wanting out with pre-season already in swing also means selling clubs can spike up the prices of their forwards if John Murtough comes knocking.
Ultimately, United are in a reactive position based on Ronaldo’s wishes and have an almighty distraction plus recruitment headache to navigate as the crucial stage of pre-season nears.
Ronaldo at Man Utd: Should he stay or leave?
Manchester United insist Cristiano Ronaldo is not for sale despite the forward asking to leave the club this summer. With at least one year remaining on his contract, Sky Sports looks at the reasons for and against his potential departure.
Speaking at the beginning of June, Ronaldo said he was “very happy” to remain at United and predicted they would rebound from a dreadful 2021/22 season.
But just one month later, the Portugal captain has had a change of heart and wants to leave Old Trafford amid concerns over trophies and transfers. United insist he is not for sale.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo still be playing for Manchester United under Erik ten Hag next season?
The 37-year-old returned to Manchester last summer – 12 years after originally leaving for Real Madrid – and netted 24 goals in 38 games to finish as the club’s top scorer in all competitions.
But while it was a strong campaign in front of goal for Ronaldo, it was a disastrous one for the team. United finished sixth in the Premier League and failed to lift a trophy for a fifth consecutive season.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has played in the Champions League for 19 campaigns in a row and United’s failure to qualify for the competition is understood to be a key reason for wanting to depart the club for a second time.
As United’s players look to impress new boss Erik ten Hag ahead of their Premier League opener against Brighton on August 7, live on Sky Sports, Ronaldo’s future is now an unwelcome distraction.
Sky Sports’ Dan Sansom discusses the reasons for and against him leaving this summer…
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