Erik ten Hag declined to comment further on Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Manchester United as the club’s pre-season tour arrived in Melbourne.
After skipping the Bangkok leg of summer camp, Ronaldo remains absent from the traveling group amid speculation over a move away from Old Trafford.
The 37-year-old wants to leave United as he seeks Champions League football, but Ten Hag was in no mood to add fuel to the fire during a press conference on his arrival in Australia.
“We made a statement and nothing changed,” the Dutchman said ahead of Friday’s friendly against A-League side Melbourne Victory at the MCG.
United maintain Ronaldo is not for sale, but it is unclear whether he will join the rest of the United squad on their three-game Australian leg of the tour.
United will be playing Europa League football next season – something Ronaldo has never done in his illustrious playing career – and United say he is absent for personal reasons.
Ten Hag said in Bangkok: “We are planning Cristiano Ronaldo for the season and that’s it. I can’t wait to work with him. Cristiano is not for sale. He is in our plans and we want to succeed together.
“He’s not with us and it’s because of personal issues. I spoke to him before this issue arose. I had a conversation with him and I had a good conversation. It’s between Cristiano and me.
“What I can confirm is that we had a very good conversation together. I didn’t speak to him after (the news).”
United didn’t seem to miss Ronaldo in their impressive 4-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday, in which Anthony Martial was on the scoresheet after returning from an unsuccessful loan spell in the second half of last season in Seville.
Ten Hag focuses on the players currently at his disposal as he seeks to improve the team’s fortunes after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season – 35 points adrift of champions Manchester City with no goal difference positive and after a sixth consecutive defeat at Crystal Palace.
Indeed, their tally of 58 points was the fewest United have collected since the start of the Premier League in 1992, but Ten Hag believes the current team is capable of a much higher cap.
“I think Manchester United have huge potential and very good players,” he added.
“We have experienced players, but also a lot of youngsters, young boys, who have a lot of potential. Now it’s about bringing out the potential and so we have to work very hard.
“Man Utd are famous for that. Marcus Rashford is one, huh? He’s a symbol of Manchester United’s academy and there will be other talents to follow.”
Rashford: We are in much better shape than last season
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted United’s style of play under Ten Hag paid instant dividends in the 4-0 defeat at Bangkok earlier this week, and striker Marcus Rashford claimed the sessions The Dutchman’s intense training sessions were already having an impact.
Rashford was one of many United players to endure a disappointing 2021/22 season, but the England international is ready to turn over a new leaf under Ten Hag.
“For me, it’s a fresh start, something I look forward to,” Rashford said.
“The first two and a half weeks of training have been good. We have improved a lot and are in much better shape than last season.
“We have a lot of room for improvement. I’m in a good position at the moment. I’m looking forward to having more games under my belt and getting ready for the season.
“It’s much easier to make mistakes in a winning team.
“Individually it’s the same. It’s much easier to come back and improve when you make mistakes in a winning team. When you lose it’s hard.
“It was not natural to have a long break, just under four weeks, a long physical and mental break.
“It’s a chance to freshen up. I’m ready to go again.
“It’s the first year I’ve been with the team since the start. [of pre-season].
“I feel a lot better than usual, when I leave with the national team and come back halfway through pre-season. It’s important to get a fresh start. I feel fresh and ready. “
Ten Hag reshapes the team in his image
United are in talks to sign Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez as Ten Hag continues to drill the team into his proactive and pressing football on the other side of the world.
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Nemanja Matic are among those who have left since Ten Hag’s arrival, but Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia is the only new face on the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.
More acquisitions could soon follow, with free agent Christian Eriksen having verbally agreed to join a club that has had advanced talks with Ajax over defender Martinez.
The Argentina international is keen on a move to United, with director of football John Murtough and chief executive Richard Arnold traveling to Amsterdam to discuss the transfer.
“In every part of the team, I want to be proactive,” Ten Hag said. “It’s the most important thing, that the players take the initiative – on the ball and off the ball, in attack and in defence.
“I wouldn’t say we played man-marking (against Liverpool). At one point we played man-marking and we want to press.
“We want to press all day, by that I mean proactive football.
“Sometimes we can do it that high, but if (it’s) not possible, we have to read it as a team and we go lower. But, despite everything, we want to press. That must be the intention all the time. daytime.”
Ten Hag: Maguire available for Victory test
United trained behind closed doors at AAMI Park on Thursday when Ten Hag and his fellow coaches’ instructions could be heard from outside the stadium.
They will play two friendlies in Melbourne over the next few days, with around 150,000 expected at the MCG in Friday’s game against Melbourne Victory and Tuesday’s clash with Crystal Palace.
Harry Maguire – confirmed as Ten Hag captain at the start of the week – is in line to feature in those games after missing Liverpool’s win with a knock.
“(Maguire) is available for tomorrow,” Ten Hag said. “We’ll see. I think he can play half a game. It’s pre-season but football is played to win. At the end of the day, it’s always important to win.
“But of course it’s pre-season, we have to develop our squad, so that’s also a really big goal for the game.”
The friendly against A-League side Melbourne Victory, who this week signed former United player Nani, looks like a good opportunity to launch young talent and previously peripheral players.
Zidane Iqbal, the 19-year-old academy graduate, impressed on the bench in Thailand, where Donny van de Beek – a star for Ajax side Ten Hag – wore a United shirt for the first time since January.
Asked if he sees Van de Beek in a deeper or more advanced midfield role, Ten Hag added: “He can do both and I know that from the past.
“But his best position which (shows) his abilities (is) in the opponent’s box, so playing short behind a striker. He has a very good smell to be in the right position.”
What’s next for Man Utd?
United are in Australia ahead of their next pre-season game against Melbourne Victory on Friday.