Cristiano Ronaldo: Erik ten Hag left Manchester United striker on the bench ‘out of respect’

Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo was an unused substitute against Manchester City (Getty Images)
Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo was an unused substitute against Manchester City (Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag said that he did not introduce Cristiano Ronaldo as a substitute in Manchester United’s 6-3 derby defeat to Manchester City out of respect for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s career.

Ronaldo was an unused substitute at the Etihad as hat-tricks by Erling Haaland and Phil Foden devastated United, ending Ten Hag’s run of four consecutive Premier League victories.

Anthony Martial was instead introduced during the second half, making his first appearance since August after a spell out with an Achilles injury, and scored twice late on to reduce the arrears.

Ten Hag revealed that he brought Martial on with the scoreline at 4-1 in order to give him much-needed minutes but did not consider Ronaldo, partly because of how rampant City were.

“I wouldn't bring him in out of respect for Cristiano and for his big career,” Ten Hag said. “The other thing was the advantage, I could bring Anthony Martial as he needs the minutes, but I don't want to point it out like that.”

Ten Hag blamed a lack of belief for United’s heavy defeat, claiming that his players had not shown the same character as they had in victories over Liverpool and Arsenal earlier this season.

“I've seen some highlights, it was obvious we are defending not front foot. We let them play, in possession we were not brave enough, we made tactical mistakes and then you get hammered.

“In the last five games we brought that attitude on the pitch, a strong belief, convincement, we brought opponents problems. Today it was the other way around.

“It's normal in our process that the pattern has to go up and I think I see clearly it goes up and we have setbacks during that process and we have to learn from it but point it clearly out.

“We can walk away from it but if we do it we won't get the solution, so we will do it. We will be very clear and we have to move on and carry on to the next game.”