Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo is happy at the club – but not when he is left out of the starting line-up.
The Portuguese veteran was an unused substitute in United's 6-3 derby humbling against Manchester City last weekend with television cameras capturing the attacker's obvious frustration as he watched helpless from the sidelines at the Etihad Stadium.
All summer, Ronaldo had been linked with a move away from Old Trafford after United's failure to secure Champions League football but no European big guns came calling and the 37-year-old has been forced to remain at the club.
He could well start his fourth game of the season in Thursday's Europa League game against Omonia Nicosia but Ten Hag was left deflecting questions about the forward's future ahead of the game in Cyprus.
“That he’s not coming on when we are 4-0 down, 5-1 down, 6-1 down and I don’t bring him on out of respect,” Ten Hag said.
“So, nothing to do with what’s happening for the future, what’s happening for January or next year.
“I don’t see he is unhappy, so he is happy. He is training well. He’s enjoying, I think everyone is training well. It’s a good spirit in the training. That’s not the point, but it’s important because it’s a base to work well.”
When asked again about Ronaldo’s situation, Ten Hag said: “He’s not happy that he wasn’t playing Sunday, don’t get me wrong, but that wasn’t the question.
“The question was about how he is on the training pitch, his mood when he’s around and he’s happy.
“But of course he wants to play and he’s [angry] when he’s not playing. Clear.”
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Ronaldo appeared in good spirits during training at Carrington on Wednesday morning and Ten Hag maintains a good relationship with him.
“I never talk about my conversations with the players,” he said. “They are between us. That’s quite clear.
“But when I tell you all the players, when you’re here and you’re happy, or satisfied, when you’re on the bench, this is not a club where you have to be, and especially Cristiano.
“He’s really competitive, as we all know. He’s not happy of course when he’s not playing.
“But I already said and, I have to repeat, he’s training well, he has a good mood, he’s motivated and he gives his best. That is what we expect.”
How United react to their derby humiliation will be an early test of Ten Hag's reign. Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks in a hammering that showed the chasm between Ten Hag’s side and back-to-back Premier League champions City.
“Obviously it was a difficult day,” said the Dutch coach, who took over at United during the summer. “As always we analyse and we do that tough, the reality.
“It was a reality check, so we have to learn from it and carry on. You always take respect of the opponent but we will still stick to our philosophy, our rules, our principles.
“In tactics sometimes, also to surprise opponents, you have to bring something different in your game, and we will do that also for the future.
“So thank you for the lesson, from Pep and City. We will take that and we have to understand we have to do things much better.”
United are taking a 22-man squad to Cyprus – a trip captain Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny Van De Beek will miss.