Erik ten Hag says the first time he discovered Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to leave Manchester United was in the striker’s controversial television interview.
Ronaldo had his contract terminated by mutual consent last month after saying he felt “betrayed” by the club and has “no respect” for Ten Hag.
The United boss had said little on the saga until now, revealing the Portuguese forward never told him he wanted to leave.
“I wanted him to stay from the first moment until now,” Ten Hag told UK media in Cadiz, Spain, where United are preparing for the return of the Premier League. “He wanted to leave, it was quite clear. And when a player definitely doesn’t want to be in this club then he has to go.
“The interview was the first time he said he wanted to leave. I think as a club you can’t accept that. There will be consequences. To make that step, [to do the interview] he knew the consequences. Before he [had] never told me.
“During the season there was no transfer window, but until that moment he never told me ‘I want to leave’. In the summer we had one talk. He came in and said, ‘I will tell you in seven days if I want to stay’. Then he came back and said, ‘I want to stay’. Until that moment [the interview] I never heard anything.
“We wanted him to be part of our project, [for] him to contribute to Manchester United, because he is a great player. He has such a great history, but it’s in the past and we have to look into the future.”
Ronaldo grew frustrated by his lack of playing time at United which saw him refuse to come on as a substitute during a victory against Tottenham in October. Ten Hag dropped Ronaldo for the incident and explained the 37-year-old was not in the right physical shape to perform.
“When he is in good shape, he is a good player,” said Ten Hag. “And he could help us to get back and achieve the objectives we have. That is quite clear. But he wasn’t.
“I liked to work with world class players. I know they can make a difference and help you to achieve your objectives. That is why you want to have such players in your dressing room.
“But what happened, happened. I have to make choices around players who are not performing and pick the best team.
“My accountability is in favour of the club and the team. They are the decisions I have to make. It doesn’t matter who is the person, it is about how we perform now.”