ERIK TEN HAG had to watch TV to see for himself how he had been stabbed in the back by Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Dutchman had listened to the sulking superstar bleating about getting away from the moment he took over as manager in July.
But he believed he had a promise from the 37-year-old that he was prepared to stay and help him bring success to Old Trafford.
Instead Ronaldo went back on his word in the explosive interview with Piers Morgan that got him the sack and cost him the last seven months of his £480,000 per week contract.
Ten Hag admits that Ronaldo, who said he had “no respect” for the Dutchman, showed him no decency, saying: “Yes, it is so. In the summer we had one talk.
“He came in and said: ‘I will tell you in seven days if I want to stay’.
“Then he came back and said ‘I want to stay’. Until that moment (the interview) I never heard anything.”
Ten Hag is sitting over lunch within a golf complex hotel near Jerez – United’s base for their Spanish break before the restart of the season.
For the first time he is reflecting on the crazy 33 days that brought to the ugliest of ends what was supposed to have been the romantic return of Ronaldo when he re-signed from Juventus at the start of last season.
A fierce thunder and lightning storm darkens the secluded dining room – matching Ten Hag’s mood on the thorny subject of the man who also declared that he had been “betrayed” by United.
Yet it was the 37 year old who knifed Ten Hag.
He insists he did everything he could to make Ronaldo happy despite continuing rumblings from the 701-goal striker wanting a move to a Champions League club.
Ronaldo deserted his team mates, heading up the tunnel in the closing minutes of a 2–0 Premier League win over Tottenham on October 19.
On November 16 THAT interview with Morgan aired after The Sun had exclusively revealed some of the shocking allegations from Ronaldo that damned United.
Ronaldo was unceremoniously sacked six days after that – but such an outcome, vows Ten Hag, was never on his agenda.
He said: “It was not my objective. It looks like it, but it was not my objective. We wanted him to be part of our project.
“Him to contribute to Manchester United because he is a great player.
“He has such a great history, but it’s the past and we have to look into the future and I don’t spend my energy on it.
“I wanted him to stay from the first moment until now. He wanted to leave, it was quite clear.
“And when a player definitely doesn’t want to be in this club then he has to go, clear.
“I did everything to bring him into the team because I value his quality.
“When he is in good shape, he is a good player and he could help us to get back and achieve the objectives we have. That is quite clear. But he wasn’t.”
Ronaldo had already been banished by Ten Hag for walking out on his team towards the end of that win against Spurs.
Yet in what turned out to be his last game in a Man United shirt, a 3–1 Prem win over Aston Villa on November 6, he was still made captain.
And Ten Hag even admits that had Ronaldo stayed on-message there might have been a new contract for him.
RON DEAL ON TABLE
Asked if the veteran, who could be dumped to the bench once again by Portugal in Saturday’s World Cup quarter final with Morocco, might have earned a new deal had he showed the right fitness and attitude he replied: “Yes, potentially, should he fit in. It is theoretical.”
But Ten Hag stressed he wouldn’t have been against the idea of him signing on again saying: “Definitely not.
“Last year he scored 24 goals, yes? So what does this team need? We need goals.”
Instead Anthony Martial, who scored from the spot in a midweek 4–2 friendly defeat to Cadiz, will be asked to provide them.
And it was obvious to Ten Hag that would have to be the case once he viewed Ronaldo effectively talking himself out of United
All the former Ajax manager had to do was point his remote control at the telly to know that.
He said of the interview: “I have seen most of it. I have to do it. It is part of my job to do it.
“And I think it was quite clear after that he had to leave.”
Ten Hag, who takes his non–World Cup squad into another friendly against Real Betis tomorrow, repeated: “Now is the time to move on.
“The club can only be successful when all the decision makers are on one page and they back each other. That is the only way the club can be successful and operate.”
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