Erik ten Hag said Cristiano Ronaldo could still have a future at Manchester United but should have been penalized for refusing to play as a substitute against Tottenham.
Manager Ten Hag held talks with Ronaldo on Thursday after he misbehaved against Spurs, including disappearing into a tunnel before the game was over.
The Dutch boss confirmed that Ronaldo rejected his instructions to leave the bench on Wednesday, raising doubts that the 37-year-old Portuguese would play for United again.
Ronaldo blamed “in the heat of the moment” for his actions in an Instagram post on Thursday that notably contained no apology.
For now, he has been suspended from first team duties and will play no part in Saturday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea, with Ten Hag saying it’s time for Ronaldo to ‘think’.
Asked about his conversation with Ronaldo, Ten Hag said on Friday: “The conversation, if you ask about it, is between me and Cristiano. It was 10 minutes.”
As to whether Ronaldo could be part of a United team in the future, Ten Hag said: “Yes. He remains an important part of the team.”
He then confirmed reports that Ronaldo disobeyed his order to come on as a substitute in United’s 2-0 win, which could be considered a much more serious offense than leaving the stadium early.
Ten Hag emphasized that, when required, he would rule with a firm hand.
“I am the manager, I am in charge of the top sports culture here and I have to set standards and mistakes and I have to control them,” Ten Hag said.
This was Ronaldo’s second early exit during Ten Hag’s tenure as he also left the stadium before the start of a pre-season match against Rayo Vallecano when he played in the first half, but then left Old Trafford.
“After Rayo Vallecano, I told them it was unacceptable, but he wasn’t the only one,” Ten Hag said. “It’s for everyone, so there will be repercussions the second time around, and that’s what we did.
“We miss him tomorrow and this is a miss for us, for the team. But I think it’s important for the attitude, for the mentality, for the group. Now we have to focus on Chelsea, that’s the most important thing.”
Asked what his actions could achieve when Ronaldo was training away from United teammates on Friday, Ten Hag said: “I think it’s for him and for everyone else.”
Reports say Ronaldo will be fined two weeks’ wages by United.
Ten Hag said: “I gave a warning at the beginning of the season and next time there will be consequences. When you live together, play together – and football is a team sport – you have to meet certain standards and I have to control that.”