EPL

Ten Hag 'looking to the future' after drawing line under Ronaldo saga

By Sports Desk December 07, 2022

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is "looking to the future" rather than dwelling on the past after drawing a line under the Cristiano Ronaldo saga.

Ronaldo's United contract was terminated by mutual consent last month following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he said he felt "betrayed" by the club.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner also said he had "no respect" for Ten Hag, having been left frustrated by playing a bit-part role under the Dutchman this season.

Commenting on Ronaldo's tumultuous exit for the first time, Ten Hag made clear he wants to move on and focus only on the players in his squad.

"He's gone and it's the past," he told MUTV during United's warm-weather training camp in Spain. "We are now looking forward and we're looking to the future."

Ronaldo top-scored for United with 24 goals in all competitions last season, but he had been restricted to just four starts in United's opening 14 Premier League games this term.

United made a slow start to Ten Hag's first season in charge, but they have since recovered to move within three points of the top four with a game in hand.

"When you change things in organisation and change the way of playing, that takes time," said Ten Hag, who won three Eredivisie titles in five years with Ajax.  

"In top-level football, you never get time. Opponents they want to kill you and that happened. We had to quickly adapt and I think our squad did terrific. 

"The mentality changed and I think our way of playing changed during the season, the style, and I think we are growing and we have to keep the process going."

United beat Fulham 2-1 in their final outing prior to the five-week break for the World Cup, with their next competitive fixture an EFL Cup last-16 tie with Burnley on December 21.

Fifteen United players have been taking part in the World Cup, with 12 still remaining, and Ten Hag wants them to hit the ground running once they return to club duty.

"We had a plan. We have prepared the players with what the plan is so there can't be any confusion about what the programme is," Ten Hag said.

"We make the players aware of the fact that, after you are out of the World Cup, you have to return to the club and the league immediately goes on. 

"Our players are winners, and they are battling now for the World Cup and in the moment they are out – hopefully one is the winner – they have to deal with that. 

"With the success they have, or the defeats, they have to deal with it and of course they have to be ready for another challenge."

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    Christian Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike and another assist as the United States opened their Copa America campaign with a 2-0 triumph over Bolivia on Sunday.

    Gregg Berhalter's side never appeared troubled in a routine victory at AT&T Stadium in Texas, thanks to the solo endeavours of captain Pulisic in their Group C opener.

    The Milan forward needed just three minutes to curl in a sublime opener before teeing up Folarin Balogun – who another strike ruled out after the interval – just moments before the break in a one-sided first half.

    Bolivia rarely seemed likely to forge a comeback as the USA managed a winning start to a Copa campaign for the first time since the 1995 edition when they defeated Chile 2-1 in Uruguay.

    Antonio Carlos Zago's side did not heed an early warning when goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra was forced to rush out and clear in front of Balogun.

    Bolivia were caught napping just minutes later as Timothy Weah worked a short corner with Pulisic, who coasted inside before curling into the top-right corner from an acute angle on the left-hand side of the area.

    Weah – son of legendary forward George – was denied from point-blank range as the USA almost doubled their lead immediately.

    Yet Berhalter's host nation would soon add to their advantage in Arlington.

    Pulisic was afforded the freedom of midfield yet again, dropping into space before offloading for Balogun to cannon a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner.

    That smart 44th-minute finish marked Balogun's first-ever goal at this tournament and the Monaco striker found the back of the net for a second time after the interval, only for his celebrations to be cut short.

    His routine tap-in from inside the six-yard area was ruled out for offside as Weah had rushed forward to capitalise on Weston McKennie's pass before sliding across for his attacking partner.

    Viscarra was equal to Pulisic's effort before the hour as the forward attempt to recreate his early heroics, while substitute Ricardo Pepi prodded wide from Antonee Robinson's pinpoint left-wing delivery.

    Pepi was denied by fine Viscarra reflexes late on as the USA coasted to an opening victory before their next meeting with Panama on Thursday, a day before Bolivia face Uruguay.

    Pulisic stars in rare USA win

    Pulisic was tipped by many as the USA player to keep an eye on at the Copa America, and the Milan man delivered in emphatic fashion in this opener.

    Fresh off the back of scoring 15 goals across all competitions for the Serie A giants, Pulisic's opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037 – yet that was no problem for the USA captain.

    His headline-worthy effort halted a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament as well given Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

    Victory also marked the USA's first Copa triumph over Bolivia in just their second attempt, avenging for a 1-0 defeat way back in 1995 when Marco Etcheverry scored the winner.

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    They defeated Mexico 3-1 in the semi-finals of the tournament they hosted 27 years ago, though a wait for another such victory must continue after a drab showing in Texas.

    Carlos Zago won this competition as a player with Brazil in 1999 but his side have a long way to go if they are to even escape their group in the USA.

    Bolivia have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and the USA.

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    Germany looked sure to be on the end of a shock defeat to Switzerland until substitute Niclas Fullkrug stepped up to make it 1-1 in stoppage time and send the hosts through as group winners.

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    Having already qualified for the last 16, the hosts left it late to seal top spot in the group, needing Fullkrug to make a much-needed impact off the bench in Frankfurt.

    Dan Ndoye had given Switzerland a first-half lead with his maiden international goal to become the nation's second-youngest goalscorer at the Euros (aged 23 years 242 days), but Switzerland could not hold on.

    Manuel Neuer was left helpless against the forward's first-time finish on his 18th appearance at the European Championships, the most among goalkeepers at the tournament (overtaking Gianluigi Buffon – 17). At major tournaments, only Cristiano Ronaldo (45) has played in more games than the Bayern Munich stopper (37).

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    Germany eventually had 18 shots, with Fullkrug picking out the top corner with the final one; the striker has scored 13 goals in just 19 international appearances, while his four as a substitute at major tournaments are more than any other European player.

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    Kevin Csoboth cemented his place in European Championship history with his counter-attacking finish as he netted the latest goal ever scored in the tournament's history (excluding extra time), timed at 99 minutes and 32 seconds.

    Despite needing a win to finish third, Scotland failed to have a single shot on target in the game. In total, the Tartan Army had just 17 shots at Euro 2024 – since the group stage was introduced in 1980, it is the joint-fewest by a national team, along with Northern Ireland at Euro 2016.

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    Hungary are hoping to "do it" for Barnabas Vargas after the striker's concering injury marred a monumental Euro 2024 win over Scotland on Sunday.

    Kevin Csoboth proved the hero in a 1-0 triumph in Stuttgart, scoring the latest European Championship goal on record after netting a strike timed at 99 minutes and 32 seconds.

    The Group A clash was only going on so late due to Vargas' head injury after the Hungary man collided with Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn in an aerial duel and left the pitch on a stretcher.

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    "That gave us that extra bit, obviously we don't ever want to see that on a football pitch but thankfully he's conscious now," Styles said of Vargas.

    "Hopefully we do it all for him."

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    Hungary will need results to go their way if they are to progress as one of four best third-place finishers at the tournament.

    Head coach Marco Rossi was delighted nevertheless with his side's efforts.

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    "I think that we played the match that we needed to play. We can say that we did enough well, we created many options, many situations, of course, we left something also to them.

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    Defeat saw Scotland eliminated in the group stages for the 12th time at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros).

    Scotland captain Andy Robertson could only apologise after another disappointment on the international stage.

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