By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Erik ten Hag was coy about Cristiano Ronaldo’s availability for Manchester United’s season opener but reiterated that the wantaway striker is part of his plans for the new season.
The 37-year-old is keen to leave Old Trafford again after just a year back at the club he won trophies galore with during his first spell.
Ronaldo missed the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia due to a family issue, playing his first 45 minutes ahead of the new campaign in United’s final warm-up friendly against Rayo Vallecano last Sunday.
When asked if the Portuguese will play in the Premier League opener against Brighton, Ten Hag said: “We will see Sunday.”
Happy to be back 💪🏽🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/Fp6dpBTXcb
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) July 31, 2022
Ronaldo was among a number of players that left the Rayo friendly early – something the manager told a Dutch broadcaster was “unacceptable” by those involved.
“Now I have to point – those who left but there were many players who left, but the spotlight is on Cristiano and that is not right,” Ten Hag said.
“So I think then do your research and make out many players left, that was what was said.
“Good, but I don’t understand what is the relation. He was part of it. Again, there were a lot of players.”
Asked about Ronaldo’s position at the club, Ten Hag said: “I’m really happy.
“I told you before, we plan with the season (with him). We have a top striker and I’m really happy he’s here, he’s in the squad and we stick to that plan.”
Ten Hag was brusque when asked further questions about Ronaldo as he focused on the collective rather than individuals.
“You mention it, you correct them, then move on,” he said of the Rayo issue.
Quizzed on the way Ronaldo has been training, Ten Hag added: “I’m satisfied with the whole team. We’re working good, good culture, and Cristiano is working really tough and hard.”
Ronaldo’s chances of being involved against Brighton were increased with the hamstring injury picked up by Anthony Martial.
The France forward, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Sevilla, has looked lively when deployed in the heart of attack during pre-season.
“Yes (he is out),” Ten Hag said. “It’s always difficult to say (the timescale). I hope not too long.”
Martial’s injury has underlined the lack of attacking options at United – an area Ten Hag said at the start of pre-season was one they hoped to improve.
Christian Eriksen has arrived but the club are still pushing for reinforcements, with the pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong rumbling on.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 4, 2022
“We want Frenkie? I don’t know,” Ten Hag said with a laugh.
“It’s about the right players and there are many, but I cannot give comments on a player who is under contract in another club. When we have news, we will bring it.”
United have brought in Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez as well as Eriksen so far this window.
Asked whether he would have expected more signings to have arrived by now, he said: “That would be a good situation but I have a squad and I’m happy with the current squad. I think they make good progress.
“I’m happy with the signings until now. We don’t just need any player, you need the right players and that’s the point we’re working on together.”