Erik ten Hag admitted Wednesday that Cristiano Ronaldo is frustrated when he is not playing for Manchester United but insisted he is happy at Old Trafford.
The summer transfer window was dominated by speculation over the 37-year-old’s future after the club’s disappointing campaign in 2021/22.
Ronaldo reportedly received an eye-watering offer from Saudi Arabia, but no Champions League giants made their move for the Portugal attacker, who missed United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia due to a family issue.
The forward could start just his fourth match in all competitions when United takes on Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League on Thursday.
Ronaldo was left on the bench for Sunday’s 6-3 derby hammering at Manchester City, leading to renewed questions about his future before the trip to Cyprus.
“I never talk about my conversations with the players,” United manager Ten Hag said at his pre-match press conference.
“They are between us. That’s quite clear.
“But when I tell you all the players when you’re here and you’re happy, or satisfied when you’re on the bench, this is not a club where you have to be, and especially Cristiano.
“He’s really competitive, as we all know. He’s not happy of course when he’s not playing.
“But I already said and, I have to repeat, he’s training well, he has a good mood, he’s motivated and he gives his best. That is what we expect.”
Ten Hag thanked City manager Pep Guardiola and his team for the reality check dished out at the Etihad.
Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored hat-tricks in a match that showed the chasm between Ten Hag’s side and back-to-back Premier League champions City.
“Obviously it was a difficult day,” said the Dutch boss.
“As always we analyze and we do that though, the reality. It was a reality check, so we have to learn from it and carry on.
“You always take respect for the opponent but we will still stick to our philosophy, our rules, our principles.”
He added: “So thank you for the lesson, from Pep and City. We will take that and we have to understand we have to do things much better.”
Bruno Fernandes said United’s players had held a meeting after the defeat to go through “the tough things, the mistakes that we did”.
“Obviously we know the game we played was not good enough for our standards, for what we have set for ourselves, for what we want to achieve this season,” said the attacking midfielder.
“We have let down the club altogether, not just one or two players. Altogether we didn’t do enough to win the game, to get points from that game.”
Defenders Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane are among the absentees for United’s trip to Cyprus.
The club is second in Group E after defeating Real Sociedad and a win against Sheriff Tiraspol.