Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag accused of Cristiano Ronaldo ‘disrespect’ after Europa League decision

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag accused of Cristiano Ronaldo ‘disrespect’ after Europa League decision

Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has accused Erik ten Hag of ‘disrespecting” Cristiano Ronaldo by continuing to start him only in the Europa League.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has become something of a peripheral figure at Old Trafford in recent weeks despite his illustrious reputation, having failed to start a single Premier League match since the 4-0 humiliation at Brentford in August.

Instead Ronaldo has been restricted to brief substitute’s cameos domestically, remaining on the bench for the entirety of Sunday’s 6-3 derby drubbing by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium as Ten Hag admitted he did not throw him into such a dismal performance partly out of respect for his reputation.

The 37-year-old’s only starts are now coming in the Europa League, with Ronaldo selected for the 1-0 home defeat by Real Sociedad and scoring in last month’s 2-0 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova.

He was duly named in the starting lineup again on Thursday night as United continued their Group E campaign with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Cypriot side Omonia in Nicosia in which the visitors needed goals from substitutes Marcus Rashford - who notched a brace - and Anthony Martial to avoid being on the receiving end of a major shock, having trailed at half-time against the run of play.

Ronaldo looked sharp early on as he created numerous chances at the GSP Stadium, though his frustration was evident after every miss as he toiled ultimately unsuccessfully in search of his 700th career club goal, hitting the post from close range late on.

And while Scholes evidently does not believe that a player of Ronaldo’s age should be starting every match at this stage of his career, he claims his former team-mate’s current usage is not befitting of the superstar he remains.

"I think it is almost more disrespectful playing him on a Thursday night in the Europa League," Scholes said before the win over Omonia in his role as a pundit on BT Sport. "This man is a world superstar.

"I am not saying at 37 years of age he should be starting the games, the big games especially, but this is a competition that is hard to get yourself motivated for. I don't like saying that, but it's true when you are a big player at a big club like this.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s only Manchester United starts since August have come in the Europa League (Manchester United via Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s only Manchester United starts since August have come in the Europa League (Manchester United via Getty Images)

"He has to change his mentality now, and because he is so strong mentally.”

Recent reports have suggested that Ronaldo will be allowed to depart United if a suitable offer arrives in January, with his contract due to expire in the summer. However, the club retain the option to extend it by an extra season should they so choose.

Speaking before the trip to Cyprus, Ten Hag insisted that the Portuguese star was content at United, despite trying to force his way out of Old Trafford during the summer transfer window and being unhappy when he doesn’t play.

“I don’t bring him on out of respect, it’s nothing to do with what’s happening for the future or January or next year,” Ten Hag said. “I don’t see he’s unhappy, he’s happy, he’s training well, he’s enjoying it. Everyone is training well, there’s a good spirit.

“He’s not happy that he wasn’t playing on Sunday, but that wasn’t the question. The question was about his mood when he’s around, and he’s happy. Of course, he wants to play, he’s p****d off when he’s not playing.”