What should Eric Ten Hag avoid? That a grumpy star (37) creates a nasty vibe in a hard-tested wardrobe.
The former Ajax coach was brought to England to build a new Manchester United.
One question that overshadows everything when entering the new season: Is the project compatible with giving the 37-year-old striker the place he needs?
Opinions are divided over the Reds’ choice to bring back Cristiano Ronaldo.
If we stick to the dry numbers after returning to England, it’s easy to discuss Ronaldo’s case. 18 goals in the Premier League and six in the Champions League last season is a stat that can certainly be heard.
Given how much the club is actually suffering, regardless of whether the coach was Norwegian or German, it is also possible to wonder where it all would have ended in 2021/22 without the Portuguese’s scoring style.
Likewise, it is becoming increasingly important to question how the past and future can be reconciled in a club that has lost so much ground over time. Would Manchester United risk hindering development as long as the veteran has such a central position? Are leaders too fond of the past?
Cristiano Ronaldo is either the best player or the second best player of his generation.
But even with the unrealistic physique and rigorous habits of the attacker, he couldn’t get past the ravages of time forever either.
Ronaldo will surely score regularly next season as well, but is that enough to remain a mainstay as the club tries once again to find itself?
Or is the price too high, if you take weaknesses in other parts of the game and more long-term perspectives into the picture?
Eric Ten Hag (52) has been given the task that David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer failed to do, to bring Manchester United back to its old levels.
If appointing the Dutchman is what the fans dream of, then the Dutchman must put his own stamp on a team that desperately needs an identity.
He must build something collectively, create a community, strike with a style and logistics of a player that can become competitive, compared also to what Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have. The road there is long.
Is it then appropriate enough for the future to have a 37-year-old in the lead role that automatically comes to his name?
One of the many problems surrounding a burning topic is that it is much easier to ask questions than to find sustainable answers.
There is a lot of prestige and money in the image surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo. In the context of his age, the options are not many, if he is looking for another club.
It’s hard to tell how confident media reports are that Ronaldo allegedly wanted to leave to play in the Champions League. The absence this summer is due to personal reasons, and we must be careful not to be overly optimistic about the relationship between the club and the player.
He’s been on the pitch against Rayo Vallecano, but it couldn’t be better for Manchester United to start the season where the biggest name is as absent as he was.
Ten Hag has repeatedly stated that Ronaldo is not for sale, but the question remains how he will tailor his approach to betting so hard on the veteran at the top.
For other attacking players too, of course life is completely different with or without Ronaldo on the pitch.
There is of course a chance that all of this will work surprisingly well. The newly acquired link between Christian Eriksen and Cristiano Ronaldo has brought together football experience and expertise that is potentially very interesting.
For a while, at least.
30-year-old Eriksen is not young either, and now there are a lot of questions about how to carry out the “Ten Hag Project”.
However, one thing is certain: Manchester United cannot afford to have a disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks over time.
Such a knot can become crucial for the club.
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