Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag has, on Friday, provided a fresh insight into the situation of star attacker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portuguese international Ronaldo, of course, will play no part this weekend, when the Red Devils make the trip to Stamford Bridge for a crunch Premier League meeting with Chelsea.
This comes owing to the 37-year-old’s behaviour in midweek.
After being left on the bench for United’s downing of Tottenham Hotspur, Ronaldo allowed his emotions to get the better of him, in refusing to enter the field of play as a substitute, before storming down the tunnel and departing Old Trafford prematurely.
The powers that be in Manchester, as a result, opted to sanction their attacking superstar, by means of a temporary ban from all first-team activities.
Speaking to the media ahead of his side’s trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, it therefore came as little surprise when the subject of Ronaldo’s standing in his squad was put to Erik ten Hag.
And the Dutchman went on to delve into a whole host of connected topics, including when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is likely to return to the fray, and the chances of United dipping into the January market in search of a replacement.
“It’s a difficult decision [to leave Cristiano Ronaldo out],” Ten Hag began. “It’s clear. But I think there has to be consequences [for] behaviour. When it’s bad behaviour, a second time, then you can’t let it go, because otherwise it’s going to misty, miserable for the future.
“So then you have to take this measure, which I don’t like, because I prefer the squad with Cristiano on board.
“He has to live as anyone else, along certain standards. Like the standards we set on the season.”
On Ronaldo’s status as an icon amongst the Manchester United faithful, the club’s boss continued:
“I think it [Ronaldo’s popularity] is justified, because he achieved a lot in his career. I don’t have to mention, it’s so brilliant. But also he has to be aware you get justified by the moment and by the way you are acting today, especially in top sport.
“That is normal, and we have to be aware of it. Not only Cristiano, everyone. We have to be aware of it as a team, as a manager, as a club.”
On a potential return to training on Monday:
“Cristiano [Ronaldo] is not in the squad, but he is training to keep himself fit to get ready for the next game coming up after Chelsea.
“First we will talk. I don’t think [it will be long-term], no. That is not my purpose. I want him to be in the squad, I want him to get in form for every game, because he has an impact.”
Finally, on the possibility of Ronaldo being replaced in January:
“I count on Cristiano, so in this moment it is not an item.”