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Ronaldo has Man United future despite Liverpool axe

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Ten Hag insists Cristiano Ronaldo still has a future at Manchester United after the Portugal star suffered the embarrassment of being dropped for his side’s rousing 2-1 win against Liverpool.

United looked far more dynamic without Ronaldo as they stunned Liverpool to end a dismal run of two successive defeats at the start of the Premier League season.

With the aging Ronaldo reduced to a substitute appearance in the closing minutes at Old Trafford on Monday, United were finally able to successfully deploy Ten Hag’s aggressive game plan.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga formed an attacking triumvirate that gave United the pace and energy they lacked in the 2-1 defeat against Brighton and the subsequent 4-0 humiliation at Brentford.

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Vindicating Ten Hag’s decision to axe Ronaldo and igniting fresh debate about his future, it was Sancho who scored United’s opener and Rashford who doubled their lead.

After missing United’s pre-season tour due to “family reasons” amid reports he had told the club he wanted to leave, Ronaldo was already unsettled heading into the new season.

United’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League convinced Ronaldo he should quit a club without a major trophy since 2017, giving Ten Hag a major headache just weeks after his arrival from Ajax.

But, with United insisting Ronaldo is not for sale, the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker has found himself in limbo.

The 37-year-old, who finished as United’s top scorer last term, hardly appeared committed to the Ten Hag regime when he walked out of Old Trafford before full-time after being substituted during a pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano.

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A limp substitute appearance in the second half of the Brighton defeat was further evidence of a potential rift between the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and his manager.

Ronaldo played the entire 90 minutes of United’s loss against Brentford, but he offered little attacking threat in one of the club’s worst results in recent memory.

Difficult decisions

That left Ten Hag with a major decision to make as he pondered his team for the crucial clash with Liverpool.

Dropping Ronaldo and then watching United lose to their arch rivals would have put huge pressure on Ten Hag.

But the Dutch coach refused to be cowed by the situation as he left out by Ronaldo and England defender Harry Maguire, a bold move that paid dividends as United climbed out of the relegation zone with their first win this season.

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Now United have won impressively without Ronaldo — surely consigning him to the bench for the immediate future — there could be fresh impetus from the striker and his agent Jorge Mendes to force through a transfer.

It is hard to imagine Ronaldo being able to adapt to Ten Hag’s high-tempo philosophy in the twilight of his career.

But, publicly at least, Ten Hag is adamant Ronaldo has a part to play in his plans.

“I think he can. In his whole career he did it under several managers, in several styles and systems. He always performed so why can’t he do this? His age is not an issue,” Ten Hag said after the Liverpool game.

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“We have a squad and we have a way of playing, a style and a game plan. You look at what is the best approach to the game. Today it was those players, Saturday it could be different.”

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In Ronaldo’s absence, United’s defiant attitude against Liverpool provided the template for the Ten Hag era.

New signing Casemiro, recruited from Real Madrid, epitomises that spirit and Ten Hag wants to see the same from Ronaldo.

“We were talking about leadership, today we had leadership on the pitch, he is one as well,” Ten Hag said of Casemiro.

“Ronaldo has it, so you need some and it is like guidance for young players who didn’t achieve the trophies.”

Pressed on Ronaldo and Maguire’s future, Ten Hag added: “I don’t have to mention Harry Maguire and Ronaldo, they are amazing players and they will play a role in the future, the short (term) future as well.

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“It is always difficult (to leave them out) but I have decisions to make.”

Whether that olive branch is enough to stop the Ronaldo dilemma from derailing Ten Hag’s United revolution remains to be seen.

 

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NFF not aware of Finidi’s resignation -Gusau

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NFF not aware of Finidi’s resignation -Gusau

The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau, says he is unaware embattled Super Eagles coach, Finidi George, has tendered his resignation.

This comes amid reports online that the coach resigned after the NFF announced Thursday that it would hire an “expatriate technical adviser” for the Eagles, following their dismal performances in the 2026 World Cup qualifying series.

Also read: NFF promises Eagles coach Finidi house, car after unveiling

The Eagles have managed just three points from a possible 12, and sit fifth in the six-team Group C, which has put their qualification hopes in jeopardy.

The Eagles dismal outings drew the ire of the country’s football-crazy populace, who are still smarting from the disappointment of the team’s non-qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Mixed reactions trailed the NFF’s announcement on Thursday, with some followers of the team calling on the federation’s board members and Finidi to tender their resignations.

According to reports , Finidi is livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they (NFF) did nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Ivory Coast to support the Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

The reports added that Finidi, who’s overseen just two Eagles games since he took charge in April, resigned from his post Tuesday (today) morning.

However, when our correspondent sent a WhatsApp message to Gusau to confirm if Finidi had resigned, he replied, “Not yet aware.”

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I won’t play at Paris Olympics – Messi

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Lionel Messi said he will not be part of Argentina’s squad for the Paris Olympics as he is no longer at an age where he can play in every tournament.

The 36-year-old Inter Miami forward is currently preparing for Argentina’s Copa America title defence, which runs from June 20 to July 14 in the United States.

Also read: Injured Messi missing as Inter Miami lose US Open Cup final

In February, under-23 manager Javier Mascherano said Messi, who won gold with Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had an invitation to join the squad for Paris.

“I talked to Mascherano and the truth is we both understood the situation,” Messi told ESPN.

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“It’s hard (to think about the Olympics right now) because we’re in Copa America. It would be two, three straight months of not being with the club, and more than anything I’m not at an age to be in everything.

“I have to choose carefully, and it would be too much to play two straight tournaments. I’ve been very lucky to play in the Olympics, of winning it together with (Mascherano).

“It was a wonderful experience on a football level. Olympics, U20, memories I’ll never forget.”

The men’s football tournament at the Olympics takes place in July and August. Teams are allowed three overage players in their squads.

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Ten Hag remains Man Utd boss

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Erik ten Hag is set to remain as coach of Manchester United following a performance review of the Dutchman carried out by the Premier League club.

Rumours swirled regarding the future of Ten Hag after a poor second season in the hot seat at Old Trafford, with a lowly eighth-placed finish in the league and group stage Champions League exit.

 

Also read : EPL: Man Utd to cut January transfer budget

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But the 54-year-old coach did oversee an impressive 2-1 FA Cup final win against local rivals Manchester City in May to boost his chances of keeping his job.

Britain’s Press Association reported United have decided that Ten Hag will remain as coach after spending a fortnight reviewing the 2023-24 campaign and overall first-team operation.

With the former Ajax boss’ contract set to expire in Manchester next summer, negotiations over a contract extension have reportedly begun between the two parties.

Prior to the season-ending FA Cup final, reports suggested Ten Hag would be sacked regardless of the outcome of the match.

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