Erik ten Hag told he’s made Cristiano Ronaldo mistake as pundit predicts worrying Man Utd slump

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Erik ten Hag, Man Utd manager, during a training session with former club Ajax Credit: PA Images
Erik ten Hag, Man Utd manager, during a training session with former club Ajax Credit: PA Images

Manchester United could live to regret their decision to keep Cristiano Ronaldo with Paul Merson explaining why Erik ten Hag faces a gloomy task to turn around the club’s fortunes.

The Dutchman, 52, has been brought in on a three-year contract and has an almighty task on his hands. His new charges limped to a sixth-place finish this season with a number of stars badly under-performing. And with money tight, new signings are expected to be light on the ground.

Such is the task on his hands that Ten Hag began work at his Carrington base six weeks early, even taking in their last game of the season at Crystal Palace.

His predecessor at Old Trafford, the interim boss Ralf Rangnick, was never afraid to mince his words about the squad. He claimed in an honest interview that “up to 10 new signings” were needed to transform the club’s fortunes. He also insisted that, despite their struggles, the club would still be able to attract big-name new stars.

However, the wholesale changes approach was a theory rejected by Ten Hag. Knowing money is tight, he will likely focus on quality over quantity – and also place more emphasis on promoting youth.

As such, it was little surprise to see Rangnick depart Old Trafford, with his role as a consultant ultimately failing to materialise.

One of Ten Hag’s first jobs was to come to a decision over Ronaldo. Despite being United’s leading light in 2021/22, there are some who suggest he will not suit the style Ten Hag wants to implement.

As it went, Ten Hag is standing by his man – and Ronaldo is now laying down the trophy gauntlet to his new manager.

Merson, however, reckons satisfying Ronaldo’s needs will not be easy. Furthermore, he believes United face such a season of struggle that the Portuguese superstar will likely leave come summer 2023 anyway.

Merson fears Ten Hag has difficult job

As a result, the pundit is questioning the wisdom in keeping him on board.

He told Sportskeeda: “Cristiano Ronaldo is probably the only player at Manchester United who hasn’t been a disappointment this season. His individual numbers add up and he has been their most consistent player over the past year.

“While Ronaldo did score his goals, I don’t think he helped the team much. The new manager’s got a hard job coming up.

“If you keep Ronaldo for another year, that’s another year without much of a plan. If he does well next year and Manchester United come third, it’s a waste – because he’ll leave after that.”

Picking out United’s top three stars, Merson admits it’s not easy to identify their best performers.

“David De Gea was the only other player close to Ronaldo’s level at Manchester United. He’s an excellent shot-stopper – if I’m a manager, that’s the first thing I want in a goalkeeper. I thought he was back to his best.”

“Picking only one player from the rest of the United squad is a horrible task. Most of them were a joke this season. Apart from the occasional showing of consistency from Scott McTominay and Fred, none of the other players deserved more than a five out of 10 for the season.”

Three players must be new Man Utd boss’ focus

Transforming United’s fortunes will be far from easy for Ten Hag. However, the new coach will probably need to focus on individual performers, as well as the Manchester United team unit and tactics as whole.

In terms of individuals, there were three players in their ranks who fell way below the standards they have set for themselves.

And if Ten Hag can find a way to get Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes back to top form again, that will solve plenty of his issues.

The trio all badly under-performed this season with Maguire, in particular, coming in for some strong criticism. However, there remains a good player in there, as illustrated by his performances for England.

Maybe taking the armband from him will help ease the pressure going forwards?

It’s a similar story with Rashford, who looked a shadow of himself through 2021/22. Unlocking the fearless talent that first broke through is vital. Indeed, his lack of goals over the past 12 months has been badly missed.

Fernandes too is perhaps the only one of the trio who played to anywhere near his potential. And in his defence, he still finished the season with 10 goals. But he struggled for consistency over the campaign and he appeared to play with a lot more fear.

The ability of the Portuguese is not in question. But Ten Hag probably needs to put an arm round his shoulders and remind him of his importance to the United cause.

United, meanwhile, have reportedly made a giant offer for Darwin Nunez and giving Benfica the chance to sign an unwanted midfielder as part of the deal.

The article Erik ten Hag told he’s made Cristiano Ronaldo mistake as pundit predicts worrying Man Utd slump appeared first on Teamtalk.com.

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