Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has explained that his decision to substitute Cristiano Ronaldo against Newcastle, despite chasing a goal in the game, was to keep the 37-year-old fresh.
Ronaldo had two goals disallowed in the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, the second somewhat controversially so, and was visibly frustrated when his number flashed up on the fourth official’s board with just under 20 minutes still left to play.
He was replaced by Marcus Rashford and United ultimately failed to find a legal breakthrough.
But Ten Hag, who has rarely started with Ronaldo so far this season, defended his choice to remove the five-time Ballon d’Or winner at a crucial point in the game.
“We have to cover four games in 10 days – and especially for the strikers I want to keep them fresh,” the United boss said, referring to upcoming fixtures against Tottenham, Chelsea and Sheriff Tiraspol in addition to facing Newcastle.
“I want to keep them all fresh, so we have to rotate there. We have some problems. [Anthony] Martial is not available in this moment so we have a player less,” the Dutchman added.
“Then Rashy was under the weather, so he did not have energy for the whole game so we have to plan to cover for the four games because we want to win all the four games or at least get a result in all four games.”
Although the first disallowed goal was a clear offside, Ten Hag refused to discuss Ronaldo’s second disallowed goal, which saw the player steal a ball rolling back towards Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope. The argument from United’s perspective was the ball was active following a free-kick. Referee Craig Pawson sided with Newcastle that it hadn’t properly been taken.
“I don’t have a comment. Everyone has seen it,” Ten Hag said.
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