EPL

Ten Hag tells Man Utd stars to shut out 'noise' over Ronaldo as he prepares to face Potter again

By Sports Desk October 21, 2022

Erik ten Hag has ordered Manchester United's players to ignore the Cristiano Ronaldo saga and keep their focus on beating Chelsea.

The United manager had to call a meeting with Ronaldo on Thursday after the veteran striker showed an errant side to his nature in the previous night's game against Tottenham.

By refusing to play as a substitute, according to Ten Hag, and leaving the stadium early, Ronaldo secured himself a weekend off.

He has been temporarily ostracised from the first team by United's Dutch boss, who made it clear he will not stand for any disruptive behaviour from the superstar, or from any member of his squad.

So Ronaldo will stay at home as United head to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, disciplined and with plenty of atoning to do.

That was inevitably the hot topic of discussion at United's pre-match press conference on Friday, and Ten Hag said: "I understand there are questions about that, but at the same time it's all about Chelsea. We have a big game to play, so all my focus is on that game."

He said that applied for all United's staff and players, adding: "We have to win that game and do everything we can. We need to prepare for that game and do our best.

"I think it's part of when you play in top football that sometimes there's rumours, there's noise, and you don't get deflected, you have to focus on the job and that is to perform tomorrow."

Ronaldo's antics took some attention off United's excellent 2-0 win over Spurs, as polished a performance as they have produced under Ten Hag, with Bruno Fernandes, Fred and Casemiro outstanding in midfield.

The focus on Ronaldo may turn out not to be such a negative in the long run. Rather than the performance be followed by days of hype about a United resurgence, attention has been focused elsewhere.

United's players – those who were happy to face Tottenham – have quietly gone about their business and will be looking for a repeat of the high level they showed at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils have not lost any of their last nine Premier League games against Chelsea (D6 W3) – only against Blackburn Rovers (12 games between 1992 and 1998) and Arsenal (19 between 1995 and 2005) have Chelsea ever endured a longer winless run in the competition. United have won just two of their last 20 at Chelsea in the league, however.

But there is perhaps a complicating factor for this game, in that Chelsea head coach Graham Potter has already chalked up a league win over United this season.

That came when Potter was bossing Brighton and Hove Albion, who inflicted an opening-day 2-1 defeat on Ten Hag's United at Old Trafford.

Since recruited by Chelsea to replace Thomas Tuchel, Potter will fancy the job again, given his strong start to life with the Blues.

He could become just the second manager in history to beat United with two different teams in a single league campaign, according to Opta, after Andy Aitken in 1908-09, with Middlesbrough and Leicester.

Ten Hag was keen to play down the Potter effect, saying: "We feel strong and we're looking forward to the game tomorrow. It's a different game, different team, he has different players.

"We are further in the process. Of course, I know more about him. The first time, maybe he knew more about me. That is maybe an advantage because he knew more about Manchester United in the first game.

"Now I'm longer in the UK, in the Premier League, so tomorrow will be a good fight; but it's not a fight between managers, it's a fight between teams."

After a run of seven consecutive away defeats, United have won three of their last four on the road in the Premier League. Their most recent away win was a 2-1 success at Everton, where the decisive second goal came, of course, from Ronaldo.

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