Manchester United defender Raphael Varane left the field in tears during Saturday's Premier League clash against Chelsea after suffering an injury.

The France international was stricken after an awkward fall with an hour gone at Stamford Bridge and showed visible signs of concern, with less than a month to go before the World Cup in Qatar gets underway.

Varane covered his face while crying and was given support my his team-mates.

While he did not require a stretcher, showing displeasure at the offer and instead walking around the edge of the field with medical staff, the injury is a clear worry for both club and country.

Defending champions France have a number of injury concerns ahead of the defence of their crown, with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante to miss the tournament with a hamstring injury and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba yet to return from a problem that has forced him to wait for his second debut with the Turin outfit.

France begin their World Cup campaign against Australia on November 22, before taking on Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.

Cristiano Ronaldo's refusal to come on for Manchester United against Tottenham was wrong, but Erik ten Hag is to blame for the Portuguese striker's awkward situation, according to Rio Ferdinand.

Ronaldo walked down the tunnel before full-time in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Tottenham, a game in which United produced arguably their finest performance in more than a year.

Ten Hag vowed to "deal with" Ronaldo the following day and United subsequently released a statement confirming the 37-year-old was to be dropped for Saturday's trip to Chelsea as a consequence of his behaviour.

Around a similar time, media reports suggested Ronaldo also refused to come on against Spurs, with Ten Hag confirming that to be the case in Friday's pre-match press conference.

It was the latest example of Ronaldo's future being called into question under Ten Hag; he did not go on United's pre-season tour for personal reasons shortly after it was claimed he wanted to leave for Champions League football, and then he was one of several players to leave Old Trafford early during a friendly against Rayo Vallecano.

The Portugal forward has also routinely looked off the pace when used by Ten Hag this term, yet his former United colleague Ferdinand – who considers himself a "mate" of Ronaldo – says the manager is the issue.

"I wouldn't have been happy as a player," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

"Ronaldo mentioned he would have handled things differently. Any emotions attached to it; it takes control. I probably would have been in the queue asking him about it.

"There's always another side to it. When you're dealing with Cristiano Ronaldo, he's Ronaldo. The way of treating him is different to everybody else.

"Communication. That's probably the first time in his life where that's not upheld by the manager.

"I'm not saying he was right but there are special players sometimes in a squad that things work differently for.

"It's important for the team to see that he is communicated with. He's 37. He probably needs that more than ever."

It was put to Ferdinand that the manager's decision should be final and respected, but again the former centre-back questioned Ten Hag's communication, suggesting the situation was simmering after Ronaldo was only introduced as a late substitute in the recent 6-3 defeat to Manchester City.

"I'm preparing myself to play games, communicate that [only playing a few minutes] to me," he continued.

"It was disrespectful to bring [Ronaldo] on against Man City for a few minutes. Foresee this happening before it happens. With the way it's panned out, you can see how a player can react.

"He's my mate, I want him to do well, but I would be on to [Ten Hag] and say, 'What are you doing?'

"If communication isn't there, problems arise."

Lisandro Martinez believes Manchester United are on track to compete for honours under Erik ten Hag, but says the Red Devils must remain grounded following their turnaround in fortunes.

United began the campaign with humiliating back-to-back losses to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford, but have won six of their eight subsequent Premier League fixtures to sit fifth in the table.

Ten Hag's team could now leapfrog Chelsea into a top-four spot when they face the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, having won three of their last four away league games.

United claimed one of their most impressive results of the season last time out, as goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes downed Tottenham 2-0 at Old Trafford, and Martinez says that display was the culmination of much work from Ten Hag's team.

Asked whether Wednesday's win represented their best performance of the season, Martinez told Sky Sports: "I think so. We did a great job.

"We controlled the game, the whole 90 minutes. I think they had only one chance in the first half and then we were solid in defence. 

"I am really happy because we tried really hard to play at this level. We want to play this way. It is fantastic to do it."

Martinez was heavily criticised for his own role in United's early-season woes, with detractors suggesting the Argentina international did have the necessary physical attributes to thrive in England.

But the former Ajax man stressed the importance of remaining calm as he added: "Sometimes we have to be patient, you know. Especially in the beginning, we know that we did not play how we wanted. 

"But it is part of football, we learn. It is experience. We have a new team, a new system. Now we have to keep going.

"It is difficult. Especially in football, you don't have time. If you lose you are a really bad player or a really bad team. But we know what we are. We have to be calm, we have to be patient, and always try hard.

"For sure, our ambition is to win titles, to put Manchester United where they deserve [to be].

"I think we are in a good way to do it. But we have to keep our feet on the ground, we have to be humble and take it step by step."

Martinez was also asked to name his defensive role model, and selected another fiery Argentine, one who participated in a Premier League title win with United in the 2006-07 season.

"Gabriel Heinze is my idol," Martinez added. "I love him. I love the way he played, very aggressive, good mentality, good mentality in the duels. 

"[He played] every game as a final. He was a top player. I try to play like him. We are a bit different as well, but I like his mentality." 

United are bidding to improve on a poor record at Stamford Bridge – their 20 per cent win rate (6/30) in away Premier League games against Chelsea is their worst record against any side they have faced more than twice on the road.

Cristiano Ronaldo remains "an important part" of Erik ten Hag's plans at Manchester United and the Dutchman hopes he can "count on him" through the rest of the season.

The forward is absent for Saturday's Premier League clash against Chelsea after he was dropped for disciplinary reasons following his refusal to come on as a substitute during Wednesday's 2-0 win over Tottenham.

Ronaldo left the game early, heading down the Old Trafford tunnel before the final whistle, echoing his pre-season actions when he departed a friendly with Rayo Vallecano before the end.

Speaking ahead of his side's trip to the Blues, Ten Hag stressed it would be a one-and-done sanction for the Portugal forward and that he believes he can rely on the veteran across the remainder of the campaign.

"It is for this game and then we continue," he stated.. "I am open to that. For me, it is a strike.

"What we said in the statement is that Cristiano remains an important part of the squad and I count on him for the rest of the season. We want to fulfil our ambitions.

"What I said is I don't want to miss him. I want him to be in the squad and be involved for every game because he has an impact."

However, Ten Hag felt Ronaldo must accept the consequence of his actions, regardless of his standing within the sport.

"He has to be aware that you get justified [judged] by the moment and how you are acting today," he added.

"In top sport, it is about today -- it is not about age or reputation. When you have top sport, you get justified and judged by the moment and how you act.

"That is normal. Everyone has to be aware of it and not just Cristiano. We have to be aware of it as a team, a manager and a club."

 

The Frenkie de Jong transfer rumour mill is heating up once again as we get closer to January, with Chelsea and Liverpool reportedly set to join Manchester United in the pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder.

De Jong, 25, was one of the most ubiquitous names in the most recent transfer window, with United and Barcelona in regular communication as Erik ten Hag tried to recruit his former Ajax pupil.

After deciding to remain at Camp Nou, despite the LaLiga club urging him to leave to help ease their finances, De Jong has started six out of 14 matches for the Blaugrana so far this season.

With their Champions League campaign looking headed for an early exit, and more playing time likely on the table in the Premier League, it may seem more palatable for the Dutch international to make the jump in January.

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE GIANTS PREPARE BIDS FOR BARCELONA'S DE JONG

Barcelona and United agreed on a deal starting at €65million plus add-ons before De Jong decided to veto the move by refusing to sign a contract with the Old Trafford side.

With his contract still tying him to Barcelona until 2026, there is no reason to believe that figure would dip unless the Catalan outfit are desperate to get a deal done.

ESPN's report claims Chelsea have had their interest spurred by the injury status of N'Golo Kante, who will apparently miss around four months after undergoing surgery on his hamstring, while Liverpool have made no secret about their desire for midfield reinforcements, and are said to have contacted De Jong's representatives.

ROUND-UP

– According to Football Italia, Juventus will be willing to sell 24-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie for €20m in January.   

– The Evening Standard is reporting Arsenal are interested in 23-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, with the French international set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Wilfried Zaha is likely to reject a new contract from Crystal Palace so he can join a top-six Premier League side when his deal expires at the end of the season, per the Daily Mail.

– Football Insider claims 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko has caught the eye of the world's elite clubs, with interest coming from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool.

– Le 10 Sport is reporting Inter view Sevilla centre-back Tanguy Nianzou and Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby as potential replacements for Milan Skriniar, with the Slovakian expected to leave in January.

Graham Potter acknowledged that difficult decisions are part of management following Erik ten Hag's handling of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United.

Ten Hag has forced Ronaldo to train away from the first team after the Portugal international took himself down the tunnel at Old Trafford before the end of United's 2-0 win against Tottenham on Wednesday.

Ronaldo will not be in the squad for United's trip to Chelsea on Saturday following his manager's statement after the Spurs game that he would "deal with" the player's behaviour.

"I can't really comment because I don't know the ins and outs but he's taken his stance, sometimes you have to do that. Then you need the club's support. From the outside, that's what's happened," Blues head coach Potter said at a press conference on Friday.

"It's difficult for me to comment... Part of the job is to take some decisions that are difficult, but that's normal."

Since losing their first two games, including an opening day defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion when Potter was still in charge of the Seagulls, United have lost just once in eight Premier League games (6-3 at Manchester City), winning six of them.

The victory against Spurs was arguably the Red Devils' best performance so far under Ten Hag since his arrival at the end of last season, and Potter believes they will only get better.

"I think they've done well," he said. "Obviously not had a great start from their perspective, but they've battled back and they're getting points and they're playing well, so it's going to be a tough game.

"They've changed a bit in how they build up I think. More longer balls, more direct, at the same time they still have the same quality, they've got the likes of [Marcus] Rashford, Antony, [Jadon] Sancho, Bruno Fernandes plays a key role for them.

"They just seem to have adapted to the competition, adapted to each other, probably learning more about each other. It's a normal process really... I'm pretty sure they'll get better and better as time goes on."

Chelsea are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions since Potter took over from Thomas Tuchel (five wins), but have suffered recent injury blows with the news that N'Golo Kante will be out for around four months, missing the World Cup, while Reece James faces a race against time to be in Qatar and will be absent for the next few weeks.

"You have to at least acknowledge the fact they're human beings that want to be involved in that type of competition," Potter added. "The reality is I haven't got anything to say that'll make it any better for them.

"You just have to focus on the things you can control, focus on your rehab day-to-day, things get better and then you just move forward."

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo can still have a Manchester United future but had to be punished for refusing to play as a substitute against Tottenham, Erik ten Hag said.

Manager Ten Hag held talks with Ronaldo on Thursday after his breaches of discipline in the Spurs game, which included disappearing down the tunnel before the game was finished.

The Dutch boss confirmed Ronaldo rejected his instruction to come off the bench on Wednesday, an action which has led to doubts over whether the 37-year-old Portuguese would play for United again.

Ronaldo blamed "the heat of the moment" for his actions in a post on Instagram on Thursday, which notably did not include an apology.

He has been pushed away from first-team duties for now and will play no part in Saturday's Premier League game at Chelsea, with Ten Hag saying it was time for "reflection" on Ronaldo's part.

Asked about his discussion with Ronaldo, Ten Hag said on Friday: "The talk, if you ask about that, it's between Cristiano and me. It was 10 minutes."

As for whether Ronaldo can be a part of United's team in the future, Ten Hag said: "Yes. He remains an important part of the squad."

He then confirmed the reports Ronaldo disobeyed his orders to play as a substitute in United's 2-0 victory, which may be considered a much more serious infraction than leaving the stadium early.

Ten Hag stressed he would rule with a firm hand when required.

"I'm the manager, I'm responsible for the top sport culture here, and I have to set standards and failures and I have to control them," Ten Hag said.

This was Ronaldo's second early walkout from a game during Ten Hag's reign, having also left the ground before full-time in a pre-season game against Rayo Vallecano, when he played the first half but then departed Old Trafford.

"After Rayo Vallecano I told them it was unacceptable, but he wasn't the only one," Ten Hag said. "That is for everyone, so the second time there will be consequences and that is what we did.

"We miss him tomorrow, and that is a miss for us, for the squad. But I think it's important for the attitude, for the mentality, from the group. Now we have to focus on Chelsea, that is the most important."

Asked what his actions might achieve, as Ronaldo trained away from United team-mates on Friday, Ten Hag said: "I think reflection for him, but also for everyone else."

Reports have suggested Ronaldo will be fined two weeks' wages by United.

Ten Hag said: "I set a warning at the start of the season and the next time there has to be consequence. When you're living together, playing together – and football's a team sport – you have to fulfil certain standards and I have to control it."

Manchester United have reached the end of their tether with Cristiano Ronaldo and want the superstar out of the club as soon as January, reports say.

The apparent refusal by Ronaldo to come on as a substitute against Tottenham on Wednesday, before flouncing off before the final whistle, has led to the striker being barred from playing any part in this weekend's Premier League clash with Chelsea.

Now Ronaldo may have played his last game for the club, unless bridges can be rebuilt.

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S UNITED FUTURE IN DOUBT

Ronaldo's last visible matchday act as a Manchester United player could turn out to be the moment he walked down the tunnel before the final whistle blew in the Spurs game.

That act looks to have been one of rebellion, with widespread reports now stating Ronaldo had declined to come off the bench late in the game.

According to the i newspaper and The Sun, among others, United boss Erik ten Hag has decided enough is enough and the time has come to part ways with the 37-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Ronaldo's performances in his second United stint have been mixed, and amid diminishing returns Ten Hag is said to want Ronaldo moved on to another club in January, or for his contract to be terminated. Ronaldo's deal runs to the end of this season.

There appeared to be a dearth of suitors during the last transfer window when Ronaldo looked keen on a move, so arranging a transfer for the former Real Madrid star may not be straightforward, unless of course he excels with Portugal at the World Cup.

ROUND-UP

- Ruben Neves has unfinished business at Porto and the 25-year-old Wolves midfielder has revealed he wants to return to the Primeira Liga giants while still in his prime years. He left at the age of 20 to join his current club. Portugal international Neves told Canal 11: "Returning to FC Porto is something I really want to happen, but it's impossible to say when. I hope I'm in the best conditions and that they still want me. I don't know how I'll be in a few years, but my goal is not to go to FC Porto to finish my career, but to win titles. I was there for three years and I didn't win."

- Andriy Lunin has shown himself to be a handy deputy for Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal, but will he stay at Santiago Bernabeu? Mundo Deportivo says the Ukrainian goalkeeper could leave before the end of his contract, which runs to 2024, if he becomes frustrated with life on the bench, with the newspaper suggesting Madrid would not stand in his way.

Lazio are said to be looking for back-up for Ciro Immobile, their experienced Italy striker, and have reportedly got their eye on two Spain-based forwards. According to Corriere dello Sport, the players being eyed by Maurizio Sarri are Elche's Argentine frontman Lucas Boye and Sevilla's Spaniard Rafa Mir.

Chelsea's perfect Premier League record under Graham Potter came to an end in the goalless draw against Brentford on Wednesday, which increases the importance of Saturday's clash against Manchester United.

The Blues sit one point above Erik ten Hag's side heading into the weekend, with both eager for a win in the early stages of the battle for a top-four finish – particularly with Newcastle United and Liverpool gathering steam behind them.

On big occasions like this, Chelsea may look to their star players and marquee additions for an impact, which directs attention towards Raheem Sterling, although the England international has a surprisingly sorry record against United.

Sterling's clashes against the Red Devils have previously always been derby encounters, first with Liverpool and then Manchester City, and in terms of goalscoring he has not risen to the occasion in the past.

Sterling's United stutters

In his Premier League career, Sterling has faced United on 18 different occasions and has enjoyed victory in just a third of those fixtures – with a tally of six wins being the second lowest against an opponent he has played on more than 10 occasions (behind games against Liverpool – three wins in 13 games).

Nine defeats leaves Sterling with more losses against United than he has tasted against any other side, with that total including three losses in his last four appearances against the Red Devils – all of which were Manchester derbies with City.

Sterling's woes have not just been on the final outcome, however, as he has failed to score in the 1,357 minutes he has played against United, despite the fact they are the side he has played the fourth-most minutes against, behind Everton, Southampton and Tottenham.

To date, Sterling's direct impact in the final third against United stands at just two assists, and Chelsea's recent history does not look much better.

United's upper hand

Chelsea head into Saturday's clash against United without a win in the last nine Premier League meetings between the sides, with draws being a regular occurrence (6) and three losses for the Blues.

In fact, 11 of the past 23 clashes between the two sides in England's top flight have finished level, with United securing seven victories in that span compared to Chelsea's five.

Chelsea's last win against United in the Premier League came five years ago, in November 2017, when Alvaro Morata scored the decisive goal of the game.

If that long wait for three points is to end this weekend, the Blues will need to be firing on all cylinders against a United side who have found their rhythm with a five-game unbeaten streak since their drubbing at the hands of City at the start of the month.

Cristiano Ronaldo acknowledged "the heat of the moment" got the better of him during his early walkout from Manchester United's win over Tottenham, pledging to be "ready for everything" after being dropped by the Red Devils.

United produced one of their best performances under Erik ten Hag during Wednesday's 2-0 win over Spurs, but the victory was overshadowed by Ronaldo walking down the tunnel before the final whistle.

Ten Hag said after the game that he would "deal with" Ronaldo's behaviour on Thursday, and the Dutchman followed through on that vow by sanctioning the 37-year-old.

On Thursday, United announced Ronaldo will play no part in Saturday's Premier League trip to Chelsea, with media reports even suggesting he refused to come on as a substitute against Spurs.

Ronaldo responded to the incident on his official Instagram account, insisting his attitude has not changed.

"As I've always done throughout my career, I try to live and play respectfully towards my colleagues, my adversaries and my coaches," Ronaldo wrote. "That hasn't changed. I haven't changed. 

"I'm the same person and the same professional that I've been for the last 20 years playing elite football, and respect has always played a very important role in my decision-making process.

"I started very young, the older and most experienced players' examples were always very important to me. Therefore, later on, I've always tried to set the example myself for the youngsters that grew in all the teams that I've represented. 

"Unfortunately, that's not always possible and sometimes the heat of the moment gets the best of us.

"Right now, I just feel that I have to keep working hard in Carrington, support my team-mates and be ready for everything in any given game. 

"Giving in to the pressure is not an option. It never was. This is Manchester United and united we must stand. Soon we'll be together again."

Ronaldo has only started two of United's 10 Premier League games this season, scoring just one goal in the competition after slipping below Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in the pecking order.

The Portugal captain reportedly asked to leave United following their failure to secure a top-four finish last season but saw several rumoured suitors – including Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich – rule out signing him. 

Cristiano Ronaldo will be omitted from the Manchester United squad to face Chelsea on Saturday following his early walkout during Wednesday's win over Tottenham.

The veteran forward, an unused substitute, walked down the tunnel before the final whistle at Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag's side downed Spurs in a 2-0 win.

Ten Hag said after the game that he would "deal with" Ronaldo's behaviour on Thursday, and the Dutchman has followed through on that by sanctioning the 37-year-old.

The Portugal captain will play no part in his side's next fixture away to Graham Potter's Blues.

"Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of the Manchester United squad for this Saturday's Premier League game against Chelsea," read an official club statement.

"The rest of the squad is fully focused on preparing for that fixture."

It is the latest indicator of Ronaldo's discontent at Old Trafford, with a much-trumpeted homecoming last season having turned sour following a disappointing 2021-22 club campaign.

Ronaldo was United's top scorer last term with 24 goals across all competitions, but the Red Devils could only finish sixth in the Premier League.

That led to speculation suggesting Ronaldo wanted to leave the club, a narrative that ultimately became a distracting sideshow through Ten Hag's first pre-season in charge.

Ronaldo did not join United on their pre-season tour of Australia and Thailand.

When he did eventually feature in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford, Ronaldo found himself at the centre of controversy as he left the stadium early after being withdrawn at half-time.

Ten Hag defended Ronaldo on that occasion, saying it was "not right" for the striker to attract all the criticism when there were several players who left early.

However, Thursday's action shows Ten Hag is willing to come down hard on the Portuguese superstar, and the situation will further cloud Ronaldo's future at the club.

The arrival of Ten Hag has seen Ronaldo slip down the pecking order, with just two Premier League starts and one goal this season across eight top-flight appearances.

United travel to Stamford Bridge sitting just one point behind their hosts in fourth.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be omitted from the Manchester United squad to face Chelsea on Saturday following his early walkout during Wednesday's win over Tottenham.

Erik ten Hag should offload Cristiano Ronaldo in January if the Portugal striker is not part of his Manchester United plans, Rio Ferdinand has said.

According to former United captain Ferdinand, the stature of Ronaldo means that even as a fringe first-team figure, his presence will loom large.

Ferdinand was reacting to Ronaldo walking away from the United bench early on Wednesday and heading down the tunnel before the end of the game against Tottenham.

That was an issue Ten Hag refused to address after the 2-0 Premier League win at Old Trafford, saying it was a matter to resolve on Thursday. The Athletic reported Ronaldo left the stadium soon after his walk-off.

Ferdinand said on his FIVE YouTube channel: "My only thought could be that Cristiano's being saved for the weekend against Chelsea.

"That's the only way I see it, logically, that he didn't play today. I think Ronaldo will be absolutely fuming with that, naturally. I wouldn't expect anything different from him."

Ferdinand has urged manager Ten Hag to think diligently about how he handles the Ronaldo situation, given the attention that is given to the 37-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Marcus Rashford started as United's principal attacker against Spurs and had an impressive game, with United scampering with intent and pressing impressively against Spurs.

It was a game where Ronaldo's presence was not missed, until the moment he grabbed the attention by casually strolling out of sight.

His contract runs to the end of the season, and Ferdinand said: "I think the big problem Erik ten Hag's got is, coming up to this window, he needs to think very carefully about what he does.

"if he doesn't see Cristiano Ronaldo as a starter in his team more often than not, I think he has to release him from his contract, let him go."

Ronaldo embarked on a second spell at United last season, having previously starred for the club prior to an £80million switch to Real Madrid in 2009.

Ferdinand said it was "not fair on anybody" for Ronaldo to always be central to the United narrative if he does not start games.

"You think why did Manchester United not let him go, if Erik ten Hag kind of knew he wasn't going to be part of his main plan," Ferdinand said. "The manager surely would have known before the season started.

"It's going to be something that probably hampers him, the manager, going forward until the day Cristiano leaves the football club, because of how big he is, because of how much of an icon, how much of a superstar, he is."

Cristiano Ronaldo must have had good reason for walking away from Manchester United's 2-0 triumph over Tottenham on Wednesday, claims former team-mate Nani.

An excellent performance from United saw them dominate Spurs at Old Trafford, as a deflected Fred strike and a sublime finish from Bruno Fernandes gave them an important victory over a top-four rival.

However, unused substitute Ronaldo headed along the touchline and down the tunnel before the final whistle blew. According to a report in the Athletic, the 37-year-old went on to leave the stadium early too, instead of celebrating with team-mates.

Despite his side's superb display, United manager Erik ten Hag was forced to field questions over Ronaldo's premature exit after the game, telling Amazon Prime he would "deal with" the matter on Thursday.

Nani, who played with Ronaldo for United as well as Portugal, defended his former team-mate before suggesting Ronaldo likely had valid reasons for his early departure.

"I don't know what happened in that moment," Nani exclusively told Stats Perform. "Maybe he had to go to the bathroom.

"Everyone knows he is a professional, very big professional."

Nani, now playing in Australia's A-League for Melbourne Victory, did not watch United's game against Tottenham, but he knows how being an unused substitute would feel for Ronaldo, and he suggested the early walk-off was not as significant as some have made out.

"He works really hard to be on the field. Maybe [there can] probably be a little bit of frustration there on not being an option to play," Nani said.

"But this is his desire, to be on the field and play. But I think it's not a big deal because there is a reason probably."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.