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Erik ten Hag admits he left Cristiano Ronaldo out of the Manchester derby ‘out of respect for his career’

Erik Ten Hag explains Cristiano Ronaldo's absence in the Manchester derby

Manchester City ran out 6-3 winners over Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in what was the highest-scoring Manchester derby in history on Sunday.

Erik ten Hag’s side were humbled at the home of their local rivals in the nine-goal thriller as Erling Braut Haaland and Phil Foden both grabbed hat-tricks.

Haaland became the first player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick in three consecutive home games as the Citizens bamboozled their opponents.

United were flattered by the scoreline courtesy of Antony’s screamer and an Anthony Martial brace.

There were several talking points from the game, but one that stood out from the rest was the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who started the derby on the bench.

The Portuguese superstar was expected to come in at some point in the game, but Ten Hag raised eyebrows when he decided to bring on Martial, who has just recovered from an injury.

The Dutch manager explained in his post-match interview (via Evening Standard) that Ronaldo was not brought on ‘out of respect for his career’.

The headlines could have been much worse if the best player in the world (arguably) had started in the humbling defeat. 

Ten Hag may feel he helped Ronaldo save face, but the former Real Madrid man could not hide his disappointment after being left out.

However, it is difficult to predict if the 37-year-old would have had something to say in the derby as United were beyond embarrassing, especially in the first half.

They played with fear and timidity and lacked confidence on the ball. They were bereft of ideas going forward, and Ronaldo would not have got the service he needed to thrive.

United failed to create any big chances in the first half as their forward line struggled to get hold of the ball. They had just two shots on target that did little to threaten Ederson.

The second half was better, but it was too late for a resurgence as the damage had been done. Antony was the only bright spark in United’s attack, and his screamer was well deserved.

Ronaldo may have felt that he could have made some kind of difference, but his form has done little to convince Ten Hag, whose decision to introduce Martial was repaid with two goals.

The Portuguese has struggled for both United and the Portugal national team this season. He has failed to score a goal from open play since he netted a brace against Switzerland in June.

Ronaldo’s last open play goal for United came in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea at the tail end of last season. His only goal for United came in the 2-0 win over Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League, and it was a penalty.

The derby ended United’s four-game winning streak in the league. It was a damaging defeat, but they will need to shake it off and prepare for their Europa League tie with Omonia Nicosia, which Ronaldo will expect to start.

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