EPL

Neville fears bottom-half Man Utd finish without Cristiano Ronaldo

By Sports Desk August 16, 2022

Gary Neville has warned Manchester United over the ramifications of an exit for Cristiano Ronaldo, expressing his fears the club could finish in the bottom half of the table.

United's start to life under Erik ten Hag has been woeful, losing back-to-back matches against Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford to sit at the foot of the Premier League.

Pressure is already mounting on Ten Hag, who faces a stern test on Monday against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, and the final weeks of the transfer window could be decisive.

United have been linked with a host of players, but the biggest story continues to be the future of Ronaldo, who is widely reported to be pushing for an exit due to his desire to play Champions League football.

Reports on Tuesday suggest United's stance has changed, with the club now said to be willing to listen to offers for the 37-year-old, but Neville is fearful of the impact his departure could have.

"I think there's a massive decision they have to make on Cristiano Ronaldo and they're damned if they do, damned if they don't," he said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football.

"A few weeks ago before the season started, these two results, [the] best thing to do was facilitate a move out the club for Cristiano because he's obviously not happy and the club aren't happy with him.

"The problem they have now is if they lose him, there's nothing left in terms of the goalscoring part of the pitch and I genuinely think if they don't bring players in or if they bring in poor players in and he leaves, I genuinely think they can finish in the bottom half of the table.

"That's a bottom half of the table team, that's a massive statement."

Suitors for Ronaldo appear to be few and far between, with Italian giants Inter and Milan said to have rebuffed a potential move, while fans of Atletico Madrid have made their feelings against a transfer clear.

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    Erik ten Hag decided not to introduce Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United's 6-3 derby thrashing by Manchester City as a mark of "respect" towards the forward.

    Ronaldo was an unused substitute as hat-tricks from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden handed City a dominant derby win on Sunday, despite Ten Hag using all five of his permitted changes.

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    Having failed in an apparent bid to leave Old Trafford in the recent transfer window, Ronaldo has been a peripheral figure under Ten Hag, making one Premier League start this season – in a 4-0 defeat to Brentford.

    Speaking at a post-match news conference, Ten Hag explained his rationale for failing to call upon the 37-year-old, saying: "I wouldn't bring him in out of respect for Cristiano, for his big career.

    "The other thing was the advantage that I could bring on Anthony Martial. He needs the minutes, but I don't want to point it out like that."

    Ronaldo has appeared as a substitute five times in the Premier League this season, failing to score a single goal.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has been limited to just one goal in all competitions this campaign, a penalty against Sheriff in a Europa League group-stage tie.

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    Pep Guardiola described Erling Haaland as a born goalscorer after he claimed another hat-trick in Manchester City's derby rout of Manchester United, declaring: "what he is doing, I didn't teach him".

    Haaland continued his fine start to life in England by playing a central role in City's 6-3 win over United, clinching a treble and adding two assists for fellow hat-trick hero Phil Foden.

    The Norwegian – who has already hit 17 goals in all competitions this season – became the first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three successive home games on Sunday.

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    Guardiola refused to take credit for the striker's form after the win, saying: "I said it many times and I will say again – what Erling is doing, he did in Norway, Austria and Germany.

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    As well as laying on two goals for Foden, Haaland created a game-high four chances on Sunday, and Guardiola was delighted by the quality of his link-up play.

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    "But of course, he has to put the ball in the net, and he is a fantastic striker." 

    Haaland has started all 11 of City's competitive games this term, and Guardiola plans to offer him the opportunity to rest at some point. 

    "He will take a break. There will be games he is not going to play," he said.

    "We are lucky, last season he could not play many games in a row – here we have incredible physios and thanks to them, he can play every 90 minutes.

    "They are so important – with their hands, they allow players to play."

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    "But of course, he has to put the ball in the net, and he is a fantastic striker." 

    Haaland has started all 11 of City's competitive games this term, and Guardiola plans to offer him the opportunity to rest at some point. 

    "He will take a break. There will be games he is not going to play," he said.

    "We are lucky, last season he could not play many games in a row – here we have incredible physios and thanks to them, he can play every 90 minutes.

    "They are so important – with their hands, they allow players to play."

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