Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in Thursday’s 3-0 Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol was a fitting prize for his perseverance after the Portuguese forward returned to the team following disciplinary issues.
Ronaldo trained away from the team towards the end of last week and was left out of the squad for their Premier League trip to Chelsea on Saturday after being dropped for refusing to go on as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur.
But he marked his return by scoring United’s third after Diogo Dalot and Marcus Rashford had put them in front to seal a place in the knockout round of Europe’s second tier club competition.
“He kept going to get himself in the right positions. He didn’t give up, I think that’s what his whole career has been about, that’s why he’s so good,” Ten Hag said.
“In the end, he got the reward for it. The pressure is always there. Ronaldo knows that and we have to deal with it. All United players know that. All top scorers need that, every time, the confirmation they can do it.
“Tonight, again, he got his confirmation and he’ll grow from it. He’s hungry. He plays with desire and wants to score goals, as many as possible. He has to invest a lot and the team has to invest a lot to put him in the right positions.”
Ten Hag said he was ready to “correct” Antony after the Brazilian forward came under fire for showboating with 720-degree spin before knocking the ball out for a goal kick.
“I don’t have a problem with tricks as long as they’re functional,” said Ten Hag, adding his withdrawal of the forward at halftime had nothing to do with the move.
“I demand more from him – more runs behind, more often in the box and more playing in the pocket. When there’s a trick, it’s nice as long as it’s functional. If you’re not losing the ball, it’s OK, but if it’s a trick because of a trick, I’ll correct him.”