‘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.

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, making his first Premier League start since August 13, managed just one shot before Marcus Rashford was hauled off in the 72nd minute.

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

United have Premier League games against Tottenham and Chelsea over the next week and Ten Hag said Ronaldo was recalled with a view to keeping him for those games.

“We have to recover because we have four games in 10 days and especially for the forwards I want to keep them fresh,” Ten Hag said.

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

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

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

The result was United’s 76th clean sheet in the Premier League, 31 of which have come since Alex Ferguson left in 2013 (41 per cent) – the most by any team in the competition since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Despite the disappointing result, Ten Hag was delighted with his side’s display and believes they deserved to take all three points.

“I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m happy with the performance,” added the Dutchman.

“We transferred a lot of the elements of the team, the way we play, to the pitch, we saw that.

“The pressing throughout the game was good. In the second half, we had better possession. We improved after halftime.”

“Then you saw we dominated that game by far in the second half and also eventually physically, again mentally as we went on.

“You saw the struggles they had and that’s one of the best physical teams in the league. They all cramped and we didn’t because we let them run because we were good on the ball and our pressing was good.”

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

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