The Red Devils were rocked last week when their iconic 37-year-old forward made it clear he wants out of the project currently being put together at Old Trafford. Ronaldo is thought to have cited the lack of transfer activity so far this summer as a reason for his desire to leave, claiming the club have not matched his levels of ambition.
Things deteriorated further after Ronaldo failed to return for pre-season training as scheduled, insisting family reasons was the explanation behind his absence. It has led to backlash from some quarters, suggesting Ronaldo has been unprofessional in asking to leave the club with a year still left to run on his two-year contract.
It looks particularly bleak around Old Trafford at the moment, but there might just be a way Ten Hag gets last season’s club top-scorer back on side and fighting for the cause.
United fans may not enjoy the idea of casting their minds back to the latter stages of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reign, but during that time the club took on Atalanta in the group stages of the Champions League. After going down by a two-goal deficit, Ronaldo took it upon himself to interrupt his manager’s half-time team talk.
The Portugal captain gave his teammates a piece of his mind, laying into all of them for their feeble efforts before spearheading a remarkable comeback effort that saw United run out 3-2 winners with Ronaldo scoring a trademark last-gasp winner.
A report at the time claimed United stars demanded Ronaldo be given a ‘bigger role’ in the dressing room as a result of his impromptu team talk, as he helped bridge the gap between the staff and the squad.
Nine months on and this could in fact open up a window for Ten Hag to convince his talismanic forward that Old Trafford remains the place to be.
There has been plenty of debate as to whether Harry Maguire should remain United skipper this season after enduring a torrid time of it individually last term while donning the armband. If he were to be stripped of the role, the most obvious candidate would undeniably be Ronaldo.
The Atlanta outburst would suggest Ronaldo can actually thrive when entrusted with leadership. Perhaps more crucially, the outcome of that game, in particular, would support the claim that the players respond well to having the five-time Ballon d’Or winner as their skipper.
Whether the offer of the armband would be enough to prompt Ronaldo into a U-turn remains to be seen, but as reports circulate of the forward refusing to travel for the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia – it’s going to take something big from Ten Hag to chance the iconic number seven’s mind.