Erik ten Hag on Wednesday signalled Manchester United’s intention to back Cristiano Ronaldo after the star was charged with improper conduct following an altercation with an Everton fan last season.
Video footage showed Ronaldo appearing to knock a young boy’s mobile phone to the ground after United’s 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park on April 9.
The 37-year-old was cautioned by Merseyside Police and the Football Association last month charged Ronaldo over the incident.
United manager Ten Hag has spoken to Ronaldo and told the Portugal striker that the club will support his case.
Ten Hag initially seemed to suggest that Ronaldo would contest the charge, but a club source subsequently indicated that the Dutch coach’s answer was down to a slight misinterpretation of the question.
The source said Ten Hag was defending Ronaldo and signalling the club’s support ahead of the player speaking at a personal FA hearing and offering mitigation as he looks to avoid a ban.
It is believed Ronaldo would not accept a harsh punishment, which United feel would be unfair, rather than disputing that the incident took place.
“We talked about that and he will not accept it,” Ten Hag told reporters.
The incident with the Everton fan occurred when Ronaldo was making his way towards the tunnel and the former Real Madrid and Juventus star later issued an apology for his actions.
“It’s never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing,” Ronaldo said on Instagram.
“Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game.
“I would like to apologise for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship.”
– Martial woe –
Ironically, Ronaldo enjoyed a more positive visit to Everton on Sunday when he scored his 700th career club goal in United’s 2-1 win.
“I want to support him as much as possible,” Ten Hag said.
“We have a certain demand on players, what we expect from them in certain positions on the pitch. But that is as every other player.
“I want to get the best out of him. Obviously he is getting in a better shape now and I am happy with that, so he can contribute more to the squad and I am sure he will do.”
Meanwhile, Ten Hag admits he feels sorry for Anthony Martial after the United forward was sidelined by his third different injury of the season.
Ten Hag’s arrival injected new life into Martial’s spluttering United career, with the France international starting up front in all four matches during the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.
However, a hamstring injury in the final friendly ruled Martial out of the start of the season, before he sustained an Achilles issue and was then forced off with a back complaint at Everton.
“He’s not training today. We will see how he develops by Sunday,” Ten Hag said ahead of Thursday’s Europa League match against Omonia Nicosia.
“I’ve had several talks with him about that (run of injuries). I’m really disappointed for him.
“I think from the quality in all the minutes he played he did very well, also Sunday.
“But obviously he fell out and that’s a disappointment for him and for the team as well.”