Erik ten Hag has ripped into Cristiano Ronaldo and the other Manchester United players who left Old Trafford before the end of Sunday’s friendly with Rayo Vallecano.
In the clearest sign that Ten Hag is getting tough on the Portugal forward, the United manager accused Ronaldo and his team-mates of “unacceptable” behavior after revealing they did not have his permission to leave the pitch before the end of the race.
United sources said the situation was an internal disciplinary matter and would not confirm whether the players involved had or would be fined by Ten Haag.
Ronaldo – who was substituted at half-time of the 1-1 draw on his first pre-season appearance – was pictured leaving Old Trafford around 10 minutes before the final whistle in scenes which only intensified the scrutiny surrounding his future.
His team-mate Diogo Dalot was also pictured doing the same, although the Portuguese defender was not in United’s matchday squad after featuring against Atletico Madrid in the friendly with Oslo the day before.
And Ten Hag has made it clear he will not tolerate such behavior after giving Ronaldo and some of his team-mates a public dressing down in an interview on Dutch television.
“I certainly don’t condone it,” Ten Hag told Viaplay Sport Netherlands. “This is unacceptable. For everyone involved. We are a team and that means you have to stay until the end [of the game].”
It is unclear which other United players, apart from Ronaldo, Ten Haag was referring to. But the coach had instructed his entire squad – including those who had played Atletico a day earlier – to come to the Rayo game and eat together before the match as he continues his efforts to bring the dressing room closer together.
Most of the players who appeared against Atlético watched the Rayo match from the managers’ box or from their own private boxes. Midfielder Scott McTominay was still seen at Old Trafford an hour after the match ended.
It is not the first time Ronaldo has disappeared without leave since returning to Old Trafford last summer. Ralf Rangnick, United’s caretaker manager last season, revealed that Ronaldo was not allowed to travel to Portugal at the weekend of the club’s 4-1 defeat by Manchester City in March.
Ten Haag was also asked if Ronaldo fits into his plans.
“I think he can,” the manager told Sky Sports. “He has to be in shape. It just started [training]. He is a fantastic footballer. He proved it so many times, but you are always judged by what you present now, performing now. So the team and Cristiano have to prove it.”
The Ten Hag has introduced a number of measures to significantly improve discipline in the squad since taking charge in May, with players being fined or sent off if they are late to team meetings, meals or training.
Steve McClaren, the Ten Hag assistant, claimed this week that the players were craving more discipline and structure and the manager has now proved he is not afraid to tackle the club’s most high-profile player.
Ronaldo and Ten Haag appeared to have a tense exchange during a first-half drinks break with the volatile forward looking visibly unfazed, and the 37-year-old is set to start the new season on the substitutes’ bench.
United face Brighton at Old Trafford in their opening Premier League game on Sunday, with Anthony Martial expected to lead the charge.
Having missed United’s entire tour of Thailand and Australia citing family reasons, Ronaldo only returned to the club’s Carrington training base last Tuesday in the company of his agent Jorge Mendes, who has opened talks with the club over the client’s future of.
United have refused to back down from their stance that Ronaldo is not for sale and the player’s hopes of a move to a Champions League side are fading with a number of top clubs having given up on moves.