Cristiano Ronaldo never told me he wanted to leave Man Utd, says Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag only discovered Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to leave Manchester United when he saw the interview where the Portuguese forward said he had “no respect” for the Dutch manager.
Ronaldo gave the controversial interview in November in which the 37-year-old also criticised the club and said he “felt betrayed”.
The forward has since left United in a “mutually agreed” exit.
“Until that moment he never told me ‘I want to leave’,” said Ten Hag
Speaking to UK journalists for the first time about Ronaldo’s exit on United’s mid-season trip to Spain, Ten Hag said that once he saw the interview there was no way back for the player.
“I have seen most of it,” the United manager said. “I have to do it. It is part of my job.
“The interview, I think, as a club you can’t accept. To make that step he knew the consequences.
“But before he never told me. Until that moment he never told me ‘I want to leave’.”
Ronaldo did tell Ten Hag he might leave the club in the summer, when the transfer window was open, after he had been given permission to have extra time off as his family tried to deal with the aftermath of the tragic death of his baby son.
“In the summer we had one talk,” said Ten Hag.
“He came in and said ‘I will tell you in seven days if I want to stay’. He came back and said he did. Until that moment [the interview] I never heard anything [else].”
There are plenty of observers who feel the situation has worked out quite well for Ten Hag.
His position has been strengthened because the club stood behind him when he dropped Ronaldo for refusing to come off the bench during the victory against Tottenham in October.
And now he no longer has to deal with someone capable of generating headlines like no other player in the game, as well as the issue of how to get Ronaldo to carry out his instructions to press high up the pitch.
However, Ten Hag does not see it like that and wanted Ronaldo to stay.
“I like to work with world-class players,” he said. “I know they can make a difference and help you to achieve your objectives.
“I wanted him to stay from the first moment until now. I did everything to bring him into the team because I value his quality. We wanted him to be part of our project and for him to contribute to Manchester United because he is a great player and has such a great history.”
It is also possible a contract extension could have been offered to Ronaldo later in the season had the five-time Ballon d’Or winner indicated a willingness to sign one.
Ten Hag says he was not against the idea of a new contract. “Definitely not,” he said. “Last year he scored 24 goals. What does this team need? We need goals.”
Ten Hag’s first utterances on the Ronaldo fallout were to United’s in-house TV channel this week and amounted to six words.
“He’s gone and it’s the past.”
Even today, it was clear he would prefer not to be talking about it.
“I don’t want to spend energy on that. It is the past. We want a new future of Manchester United and he didn’t want to be part of it,” he said.
“All my accountability is in favour of the club and the team. They are the decisions I have to make and it doesn’t matter which person it is.
“It is about how we perform now. I believe our performances will confirm that we are going in the right direction.”