Stuff that matters

Cristiano Ronaldo has been dropped from Manchester United’s squad for Saturday’s game at Chelsea. The punishment was imposed by Erik ten Hag on a day when it emerged that the forward has such a fractious relationship with some of the manager’s coaching staff that he keeps his communication with certain members to a minimum.

Ten Hag has omitted Ronaldo as a result of the player refusing to come on as a substitute during Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham and walking down the tunnel before the end of the match. The decision has been backed by the club’s hierarchy and Ronaldo will not train with the first team as they prepare for the game at Stamford Bridge. Ten Hag has still asked him to report to the training ground.

It is thought Ten Hag would countenance Ronaldo leaving in the January window given the 37-year-old’s discontent at being at the club. Richard Arnold, the chief executive, would back the manager over this, though the forward’s wages of about £500,000 a week means it may be difficult to agree a deal with another club.

The player’s contract expires in June and one option may be to offer him a payoff of about half the salary he is due. If done now, that would amount to about £8m. Another possibility would be to allow him to move on loan and continue paying a proportion of his wages.

While Ten Hag is aware of Ronaldo’s reluctance to engage with certain members of his inner circle. The Portugal international voiced frustration regarding some of the conditions at the club’s Carrington training base before the Dutchman took over in the summer and was listened to. This and his professionalism and willingness to mentor young squad members was well received by teammates, though his popularity may have been affected by his exit down the Old Trafford tunnel on Wednesday.

Immediately afterwards Ten Hag stated he had not spoken to Ronaldo but would address the issue the next day. On Thursday Ronaldo, who wanted to depart United in the summer, arrived at Carrington to discuss the episode with the manager and the punishment was imposed.

Ronaldo reacted to Ten Hag’s decision to exclude him by issuing a statement on Instagram on Thursday evening that accepted responsibility but stopped short of an apology. “I’ve always tried to set the example myself for the youngsters that grew in all the teams that I’ve represented,” he wrote. “Unfortunately that’s not always possible and sometimes the heat of the moment get’s the best of us. Right now, I just feel that I have to keep working hard in Carrington, support my teammates and be ready for everything in any given game. Giving in to the pressure is not an option. It never was. This is Manchester United, and united we must stand. Soon we’ll be together again.”

It was the second time in less than three months that Ronaldo had left a United match before the final whistle. He also did so after being substituted at half-time of July’s friendly with Rayo Vallecano, leaving Old Trafford with a number of players not in the match-day squad. Ten Hag later said that all had been reprimanded and it is understood he warned it must never happen again. He is particularly unhappy at Ronaldo’s actions on Wednesday because they ignored that message and can be viewed as disrespectful to him and the squad.

Ten Hag has chosen to leave out Ronaldo this weekend even though his first-choice No 9, Anthony Martial, is injury prone and Marcus Rashford prefers to operate on the left.