'Ronaldo needs to stay fresh' Man Utd boss Ten Hag defends decision to substitute striker


Cristiano Ronaldo looked unhappy at being hauled off during Manchester United's draw with Newcastle United, but Erik ten Hag had no regrets.
FotMob - 7 months ago

Erik ten Hag defended his decision to substitute Cristiano Ronaldo during Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Newcastle United on Sunday, insisting he wants to keep the striker fresh for a packed fixture schedule.

Ronaldo, starting a Premier League for the first time since August 13, managed just a single shot before he was hauled off in the 72nd minute for Marcus Rashford.

The Portuguese superstar looked visibly annoyed as he walked off the pitch, and continued to shake his head in the dugout as United struggled to break down Eddie Howe's side.

United face Premier League matches against Tottenham and Chelsea over the next week, and Ten Hag said Ronaldo was brought off with a view to preserving him for those games.

"We have to recover as we have four games in 10 days and especially for the strikers, I want to keep them fresh," Ten Hag said.

"I want to keep them all fresh, we have to rotate because of some problems we have.

"[Anthony] Martial is not available in this moment, then Rashy [Rashford] was not well, so he did not have energy for the whole game.

"We had to plan to cover for the four games because we want to win or at least get a result in all four games."

The result was United's 76th Premier League goalless draw, 31 of which have come since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 (41 per cent) – the most of any side in the competition since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Despite the disappointing result, Ten Hag was pleased with his side's display and believes they deserved to claim all three points.

"I'm disappointed with the result, but I'm happy with the performance," the Dutchman added.

"A lot of elements of the team, the way of playing, we transferred on the pitch. We have seen that.

"The pressing the whole game was good. The second half possession was better. We made an improvement after half-time.

"Then you saw we dominate that game in the second half by far and also in the end the physical, again the mentality, how we kept going.

"You saw the problems they had and that is one of the best physical teams in the league. They all had cramp and we didn't because we let them run because we were good on the ball and our pressing was good."

The result left the Red Devils fifth in the Premier League, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and still one ahead of Newcastle.