Erik ten Hag hails Fernandes’ finish as Man Utd sink Saints
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In many ways, Cristiano Ronaldo is Manchester United’s modern-day Ruud van Nistelrooy – the 2006 version of the Netherlands international, at least. A deadly and brilliant goalscorer, but one being outdone by his younger team-mates. And with less than 24 hours of the transfer window to go, it’ll be fascinating to see what unfolds.
Ronaldo informed United back in June that he wanted to leave for a team who could offer him Champions League football, something the Red Devils can’t following their sixth-placed finish last term.
He’s since tried to orchestrate a move away, in the hope that a top European club will come to his rescue and also pay him his huge salary.
Except, that hasn’t happened. A player who is arguably the best the sport has ever seen just isn’t considered worth the punt in today’s day and age.
Despite his 24 goals across all competitions last term, Ronaldo is considered as yesterday’s man. At the age of 37, his best days are behind him – instead of ahead.
Erik ten Hag has been remarkably calm about it all in the public eye. On Tuesday, he claimed Ronaldo would be staying by saying: “From the start, we said we planned with him.
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“We’re happy with him, he’s happy to be here and we want to make the season a success together.”
When quizzed on the Portugal international and himself having internal discussions, Ten Hag added: “Several times, yes. We’re all on one page.
“The way of playing sets the demands. You can see in training that it’s clear that he has the capabilities.
“He will fit in because – I don’t have to explain. He’s such a great player. He will fit in every system or every style.”
Ronaldo, it seems, is coming round to the idea of playing in the Europa League for the very first time. A competition he’s never graced before over the course of his glittering career.
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But while United have publicly insisted they want him to stay, it’s been a different story behind the scenes.
It’s been widely reported that, privately, Ten Hag has been open to offloading the Portugal international all summer long.
He feels the Ronaldo show has become an unwanted distraction as he looks to rebuild the fallen Premier League giants, who have failed to get anywhere near a trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
But, now, the Red Devils are primed to be stuck with him.
It’s all so different to back in 2006, when Ferguson decided Van Nistelrooy’s best years were behind him – instead of ahead.
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The Netherlands international had been prolific in the years previously, notching 150 goals to become the stuff of Old Trafford legend.
He managed 44 in the 2002/2003 season alone, a record that has only been matched by Mohamed Salah in the years since.
But with Wayne Rooney and a young Ronaldo threatening to become the next best thing, Van Nistelrooy’s relationship with Ferguson started to sour.
He was aggrieved at being left out of the squad for the 2006 EFL Cup final win over Wigan, a game in which Ronaldo and Rooney both notched.
And as his mood worsened, Ferguson decided to cut Van Nistelrooy loose.
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It has echoes of today, where Rashford and Jadon Sancho have started to resemble their true selves without Ronaldo alongside them.
Those two, despite their inconsistencies, are the future of Ten Hag’s team – something the Dutchman is fully aware of.
With Antony joining from Ajax, he’s another player who Ten Hag won’t allow Ronaldo to stunt the development of.
If a Champions League team comes in with an offer Ronaldo, a serious one at that, then it’s possible the Red Devils will cash in.
Instead, it seems as though he’s here to stay. Whether that works on United’s favour or not is something only time will tell.
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