Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag refused to answer whether Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from the club in November helped to improve things on and off the pitch.
A 37-year-old Ronaldo no longer able to command a regular starting place left Old Trafford under a cloud following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, during which he criticised the club and spoke of a lack of respect for Ten Hag.
United went on to record seven successive wins in all competitions immediately after the World Cup break, lifted the Carabao Cup, finished in the top three for only the fourth time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and will also contest the FA Cup final early next month.
The Ronaldo situation seemed to increasingly be a distraction until it reached breaking point, after which things appeared to settle down for United and Ten Hag.
“If you’re observing that, it’s up to you,” Ten Hag told The Times when asked the question.
“So, what I want to see from my team is a team who are proactive, dynamic, determined. I’ve seen many times Manchester United with that attitude, so that’s what I like. It’s not that we are satisfied. There’s still a long way to go but we’re definitely showing this mentality.”
Has Cristiano Ronaldo won anything in Saudi Arabia?
Although it was apparent that Ronaldo was adamant he could still be a top performer for a Champions League club, which was why he was frustrated at hardly starting for United, a number of high profile European sides opted against trying to sign him. There was at least one big offer from Brazil, while the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was even heavily linked with Sporting Kansas City.
But Al-Nassr won Ronaldo’s attention and his move to Saudi Arabia was sealed at the start of January, although his debut was initially delayed by a suspension carried over from English football due to knocking a phone out of an Everton fan’s hand the previous April.
Ronaldo has since scored 14 times in 16 Saudi Pro League appearances, but Al Nassr will not be crowned champions this season following the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Al Ettifaq.
Ronaldo had previously scored a brilliant winner in a 3-2 comeback victory over Al Shabab to keep his team’s title challenge alive. But subsequently dropping points in the penultimate has left Al Nassr too far behind league leaders Al Ittihad to catch them on the final day of the season on Wednesday.
The veteran superstar has previously won league titles in England, Spain and Italy, but will have to wait at least another year if he is to add Saudi Arabia to that list.