Erik ten Hag has strangely claimed he did not bring Cristiano Ronaldo on in Manchester United’s derby loss to Manchester City ‘out of respect for his big career’.
The Red Devils lost 6-3 to their local rivals on Sunday, with Ronaldo an unused substitute at the Etihad as the cameras constantly flicked to the brooding Portugal international on the bench.
Ten Hag opted to start Marcus Rashford against City rather than Ronaldo, despite the 24-year-old better suited to a position out wide and struggling with a recent injury.
Late on, with the game well away from City, Martial was introduced instead of United’s No.7, with the former Monaco man netting two to make the scoreline look a tad more respectable for the visitors.
It led to several suggestions Ronaldo is not part of Ten Hag’s long-term plans, and that he considers the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to be third choice in the pecking order.
Asked about the forward’s situation, Ten Hag explained that rather than bring on his most experienced player, he instead wanted to avoid adding a blemish on Ronaldo’s incredible career.
“I wouldn’t bring him in because we are 4-0 down, out of respect for Cristiano, for his big career,” he said.
“The other thing, I could bring on Anthony Martial; he needs the minutes. But I don’t want to point it out like that.”
When will Casemiro start?
Starting with Ronaldo on the bench wasn’t the only controversial decision the United manager made on Sunday. Ten Hag also decided to select Casemiro among the substitutes, with Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen partnering each other in the middle.
It was a pairing that performed woefully against City, and were torn apart by Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
But Ten Hag said the decision to not select Casemiro was not a slight on him, more a reward for McTominay following his recent impressive run of form.
“On the day we signed him, we started to win,” explained the Dutchman. “It’s about the team and the team is doing really well.
“It’s not against Casemiro, it’s for Scott McTominay because he performed great in the team, then we got into a run. I’m sure he will be important for us and in the short term he will find himself in the team, but it has to come in a natural way.”