Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted he is “very happy” to remain at Old Trafford and believes Manchester United will bounce back from a terrible 2021/22 campaign under new manager Erik ten Hag.
Ronaldo returned to United last summer, 12 years after leaving the club for Real Madrid, and scored 24 goals in 38 games to finish as the club’s top scorer in all competitions.
But while it was a solid campaign in front of goal for the 37-year-old, it was not an impressive one for the team as United finished sixth in the Premier League and failed to lift a trophy for the fifth successive season.
Ronaldo has played in the Champions League for 19 consecutive campaigns and United’s failure to qualify for the competition has led to speculation that the Portuguese international could leave Old Trafford for a second time.
But speaking in an interview with the club, Ronaldo said: “I was happy, of course, to be back at a club that really elevated my career, so it was an amazing feeling when I came back. It was nice to feel the supporters – the happiness of them was great.
“I was and still am very happy to be here, and what I have to say to the fans is that they are amazing. Even when we lose games, they always support us, they are always with us. The fans are always in my heart and they are the people whom we should all respect because they are always on our side.
“For me, the most important thing is to try to win games and try to win a championship or a cup, but I think Manchester will be where they belong. As I said before, sometimes it takes time, but I still believe.”
United’s disappointing season came under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked in November, and caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick, who left the club at the end of the season despite agreeing to stay on as an adviser.
Ten Hag filled the managerial void after leading Ajax to the Eredivisie title, and Ronaldo says the Dutchman must be given time to turn United’s fortunes around.
“I know he did a fantastic job for Ajax and that he is an experienced coach, but we need to give him time,” Ronaldo said. “Things must change the way he wants.
“I hope we succeed, of course, because if you succeed, all of Manchester will also succeed. So I wish him well.”
“We are happy and excited, not only the players but also the fans. I wish him the best and believe that next year we will win trophies.”
A rare bright spot for United this season was the performance of their Under-18 side, who won the FA Youth Cup last month for the first time in 11 years.
That success, plus a desire to pass on the lessons he’s learned over 20 years as a professional, means Ronaldo is eager to see United’s current generation of youngsters given opportunities to impress Ten Hag.
“I am in favor of us giving opportunities to the young generation, of course, because they will be the future,” Ronaldo explained. “But you also have to help them put it in the right place, because the pressure is a lot to play in the Premier League, which I think is the most difficult league in the world by far.”
“You have to give them time, give them the opportunity and let them grow normally without pressure, but I think we should give the young generation opportunities.
“They understand that to be successful you have to [make] sacrifices, hard work, work ethic, dedication, but of course if the kids ask me for advice, I will give my opinion and advice because I want to help.
What positions is Manchester United aiming for?
Melissa Reddy, Senior Reporter for Sky Sports News:
Erik ten Hag’s commitment to deviate from a holiday and immediately be stuck as manager of Manchester United tells the story of the scale of work he has to deal with.
The 52-year-old inherits a squad that requires a significant overhaul, having put up the worst Premier League season in its history.
That almighty task must be done amid an organizational shakeup, including recruiting, behind the scenes as United seek a “detox from underachievement”.
Consequently, it is a much smaller list to assess what the club does not need this summer.
Let’s delve into the team itself, which features 21 players signed by five different managers with no underlying age or stylistic profile.
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Lee Grant all come out as free signings.
Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly and Brandon Williams are expected to leave for more minutes elsewhere. Phil Jones and Diogo Dalot could also go.
The club are open to offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Harry Maguire keeping his place in the starting XI, let alone the captain’s armband, is in jeopardy. Marcus Rashford has been terribly out of shape and Bruno Fernandes has gone from a transformative figure to a largely frustrating one.
United’s attack cannot rely solely on Cristiano Ronaldo, while the midfield has lacked protection and offensive progression. There is no position free from the need for strengthening.
United need an elite anchor, a dynamic central midfielder, a high-quality striker, a commanding midfielder and commanding midfielder who is comfortable defending big spaces, new full-backs and another striker as a foil for Jadon Sancho.
Ten Hag has a clear football ideology, which is helpful in building a recruiting profile. Sky sports news he has been told he wants “more technical, aggressive, quick-thinking players” who have a “deep responsibility to work off the ball and for each other”.
Given the considerable changes in scouting operations and the lack of football negotiating nous, it will be interesting to see how United handle the big ins and outs.
The absence of Champions League participation also puts the club at a disadvantage, but United believe Ten Hag’s continental exploits with Ajax and his ability to improve players will be attractive enough for their goals.
Another item being sold to prospective recruits is the chance to “write a new Manchester United story”. Ten Hag will oversee a considerably different team and is expected to bring a culture change and greater discipline to what has been a divided and toxic environment.
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