Ten Hag had opted to leave Ronaldo, who is reportedly eager to move to a Champions League qualifying side, out of the starting line-up after playing just 45 minutes in pre-season games. Ronaldo had fueled questions about his way of thinking after he and a group of players left Old Trafford without permission before the end of a friendly last Sunday against Spaniard Rayo Vallecano.
What to know about the 2022-23 English Premier League season
Ten Hag called it “unacceptable for everyone”, then said on Friday it was unfair to criticize Ronaldo above others.
“There were a lot of players who left, but the spotlight is on Cristiano and that’s not right,” ten Hag said on Friday (via The Associated Press). “So I think then do your research and single out a lot of the remaining players; that’s what was said. … He was one of them. Again, there were a lot of players.
Ronaldo played for United from 2003 to 2009 and returned to the team last year, but it was a disappointing season as United finished sixth in the Premier League, 35 points behind champions Manchester City.
In Sunday’s opener, Manchester United fought back in the second half after Brighton took a 2-0 lead with two first-half goals from Pascal Gross and the home side were booed off the pitch . United threatened in the second half; Alexis Mac Allister scored on an own goal.
There was unrest even before the match: supporters protested against the Glazer family, who were voted the Premier League’s worst owners in the spring. Avram Glazer, the team’s co-chairman, was on hand for the opening, and fans sang and chanted for his family to sell out the team.
With the loss, ten Hag became the club’s first manager to lose their first Premier League game since Louis Van Gaal, who lost to Swansea in 2014.
“We came into the game positively, we had a good pre-season and it was the worst possible start to being down 2-0 at half-time at Old Trafford. Not good enough. We got a goal back, but we huffed and huffed a bit, and it’s a bad start for us,” Harry Maguire said (via ESPN).
“We started the game pretty well and on the front foot and as a team we had control of the game. Then we conceded the first goal and it hurt us a lot. We stopped playing from then on. We have to be careful not to let that first goal set us back as much as it did. But we have to be better on the ball; we encouraged them to come and attack us. It was a nightmarish start to be down 2-0 at halftime.
It’s a rocky start for ten Hag, who has won 158 games in over four seasons with Dutch powerhouse Ajax and twice led the team to the Champions League knockout stages. Manchester United haven’t won the Premier League title since 2013 and haven’t gone past the Champions League quarter-finals since finishing second in 2011.