Erik ten Hag and Manchester United’s hierarchy will hold talks on Monday as they decide what to do with Cristiano Ronaldo.
United are deeply disappointed by Ronaldo’s extraordinary attack on Ten Hag and the club. In an interview with Piers Morgan, the striker says he has “no respect” for the manager while accusing the club of betraying him and trying to force him out.
Ten Hag and his players were preparing to fly back from London after their last-gasp 2-1 win at Fulham when word reached the club, via Ronaldo’s camp, that the player had given an explosive interview.
United opted not to comment on Sunday night, eager not to distract from a morale-boosting victory that they felt underlined the spirit and togetherness in the squad.
But discussions will gather pace on Monday as Ten Hag, chief executive Richard Arnold and football director John Murtough plot the best course, in conjunction with co-chairman and owner Joel Glazer.
Ronaldo has been a peripheral figure under Ten Hag, starting just four of 14 Premier League matches, but there will be pressure on Ten Hag to ensure the five-times World Player of the Year never represents the club again.
Many fans have reacted angrily to Ronaldo’s attack, particularly his comments about Ten Hag, and his remarks come only weeks after he refused to come on as a substitute in the 2-0 win over Spurs at Old Trafford, another example of a memorable victory being overshadowed by the 37-year-old’s actions.
United will also be under pressure to take a hardline stance given some of the allegations levelled at the club by Ronaldo.
There is huge respect in the United dressing room for what Ronaldo has achieved in the game but his behaviour in recent weeks in particular is said to have disappointed a number of players.
One well placed source said there will “not be a tear shed” by some players if and when Ronaldo does leave and that his actions were destabilising at a time when the squad is pulling together and showing greater unity after last season’s shambles.
Another source said the dressing room was “not allowing Ronaldo’s tantrums to distract them” and claimed a number of players were already moving on.
Ten Hag has handled a difficult situation impressively since taking over at Old Trafford in May, starting with Ronaldo’s absence from their pre-season tour for personal reasons and his request to leave in the summer, but the matter has become increasingly serious.
United are not back in action until the week before Christmas when they play Burnley in the Carabao Cup fourth round now the domestic season has paused for the World Cup. They then play two games in the Premier League, against Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers before the transfer window opens on January 1.
It remains to be seen if United take more drastic action before then. Ronaldo has been included in Portugal’s squad and waited until now to go public with his grievances at United, knowing it will be weeks before there is any prospect of him returning to the club.
Ronaldo missed United’s 4-2 Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa on Thursday and the Fulham game after telling the club he was ill