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DANNY MURPHY: Erik Ten Hag must DITCH Cristiano Ronaldo to show Manchester United stars who is boss

DANNY MURPHY: Erik ten Hag must QUICK OFF Cristiano Ronaldo to show Manchester United stars who’s boss…

  • Manchester United take on Brighton to open their Premier League season
  • But boss Erik Ten Hag faces a selection dilemma on the way to Old Trafford clash
  • United start without Anthony Martial despite preseason problems
  • The Portuguese star’s start has a lot of power after walking away from a friendly
  • Yet Ten Hag is left with a heavily weakened side without the attacker

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I was part of the Liverpool dressing room when Gerard Houllier told Paul Ince that he had no future at the club. Incey was a brilliant captain, a great leader, hugely influential and one of the best midfielders this country has ever had.

But Houllier decided it was time for a new era and didn’t care what Paul or anyone else thought.

Everyone in that dressing room was like, ‘Wow, this guy means it’.

Erik ten Hag faces a huge question whether he should start Cristiano Ronaldo against Brighton

Erik ten Hag faces a huge question whether he should start Cristiano Ronaldo against Brighton

Erik ten Hag has gone to Manchester United, a huge club, and is trying to implement his own philosophy. Yet he does this with a lot of noise around him – and much of that noise is created by Cristiano Ronaldo.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Ten Hag to make his mark. Go to the United hierarchy and say, ‘Let him go, I don’t need the trouble.’

That would send a huge message and set a strong precedent, especially after Ronaldo’s outburst last week when he left Old Trafford before the end of the game.

That was Ronaldo flexing his muscles. It will be interesting to see what Ten Hag does with his team selection on Sunday. Will he start Ronaldo or will he take a stand?

Ronaldo left Old Trafford early during United's pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano

Ronaldo left Old Trafford early during United's pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano

Ronaldo left Old Trafford early during United’s pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano

If he starts it, he might as well say Ronaldo can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

That has consequences. It belittles the manager and undermines his leadership and control.

Ronaldo leaving the game early is something Ten Hag could have – and should have done – before it happened. He should have had a chat with Ronaldo before the match to discuss how long he planned to play him and to make sure he was on board. However, now it has happened, what are the consequences? If I were Ten Hag, I would expect an apology.

Put it this way. If we did that under Houllier, we wouldn’t play the next game. I think that’s the same for many managers. Would Pep Guardiola stand for it? Would Liverpool’s players do it under Jurgen Klopp? They don’t because they know there will be consequences.

Ten Hag must show his Manchester United stars that he is the man who is now in charge

Ten Hag must show his Manchester United stars that he is the man who is now in charge

Ten Hag must show his Manchester United stars that he is the man who is now in charge

Ten Hag cannot afford more bad discipline to run through the United camp this season

Ten Hag cannot afford more bad discipline to run through the United camp this season

Ten Hag cannot afford more bad discipline to run through the United camp this season

That has been the problem at United for years. There has been a lack of repercussions whether from poor performance, poor application, or poor posture. Now this is about bad behavior.

If Ronaldo stays, but doesn’t play every minute of every game, Ten Hag will have a problem. Ronaldo will in no way want to be a squad player when he is at the end of his career and wants to keep scoring and breaking records.

So, Ten Hag has to either put his arm around Ronaldo, pull him back or he has to leave. There is no middle ground. If he is looking for a middle ground, he sets his United project back a year.

But even if Ronaldo took the lead for United, it would go against the way Ten Hag wanted his team to play in pre-season.

In form, Anthony Martial has been ruled out injured for day one clash with Brighton

In form, Anthony Martial has been ruled out injured for day one clash with Brighton

In form, Anthony Martial has been ruled out injured for day one clash with Brighton

You get great movement, smarts and intelligence from Ronaldo when you have the ball. It’s when you don’t have the ball. At his age, he no longer has the physicality to do both.

The problem is that taking Ronaldo away leaves a gaping hole in goals that Ten Hag must find a way to fill, especially now that Anthony Martial is injured. The compromise might be to put him on the bench.

If Ronaldo is not in the roster, that says a lot about Ten Hag and his determination to have a disciplined ship. If we see Ronaldo in the starting line-up with no apologies or serious consequences, then I think Ten Hag has put himself in a lot of trouble.


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