Roy Keane has backed Erik ten Hag’s decision not to start Cristiano Ronaldo in Sunday’s clash with Brighton but feels it is vital they do not let him leave.
Ronaldo, 37, has skipped the majority of pre-season games, missing tours to both Asia and Australia. He played the first half of last weekend’s friendly with Spanish side Rayo Vallecano before leaving ahead of the final whistle. That drew the ire of Ten Hag, with rumours he would start the Portugal ace from the bench this weekend.
Ronaldo then declared himself ‘ready’ with an Instagram post but the Dutch tactician has stuck to his guns. And, ahead of the season-opener, Ten Hag spoke about Ronaldo’s situation.
“He is working really hard to get to the right fitness levels,” he told Sky Sports. “That will take time, it is normal. He started pre-season last week.”
Whether the fans agree with his choice is open to debate but former Red Devils skipper Keane is in no doubt the boss had no option.
“I think it was a pretty straightforward call for the manager,” he said on Sky Sports. “As brilliant as Ronaldo is he’s only had 45 minutes of pre-season.
“I don’t care how well you look after yourself you need more than that over the course of pre-season.
“And I think he’s looking at the players he’s got and, with Brighton at home, still probably thinks ‘we fancy out chances without Ronaldo to beat Brighton’.
“I think there’s issues going on in the background, we’ve a few weeks to look at that before the window closes. But I think from a footballing point of view today was a straightforward call for the manager to make because of the lack of minutes he’s had.”
Keane adamant Ronaldo must stay
Ronaldo hinted that he wanted to leave Manchester United after the club’s failure to secure Champions League football for 2022-2023.
Unaccustomed to having to play in the Europa League, the former Real Madrid star is seeking an alternative club. That is proving difficult at the moment, with a number ruling themselves out of the running for the goalscoring legend.
Anthony Martial was being slated for a starting berth against Graham Potter’s side before picking up a hamstring injury. Ten Hag opted for Marcus Rashford up top, with Jadon Sancho, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes supporting.
Keane feels that letting Ronaldo leave without an adequate replacement would be folly. And he was less than complimentary about Martial’s ability to do the striker’s job for the club.
“You can’t let Ronaldo go out of the door and think Martial is going to be the answer. Martial isn’t the answer, he’s proven that,” he added. “He’s had a decent pre-season – big deal. But they haven’t got enough options at this time.
“From a footballing point of view you have to hold on to Ronaldo. You just can’t let him go whet you haven’t got the back-up behind it.”
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