Two Man United legends clash bitterly over Ten Hag’s treatment of Ronaldo

Download the FREE APP for Manchester United fans. Click HERE

Two former Manchester United captains Roy Keane and Gary Neville were involved in a heated debate about Cristiano Ronaldo and his future following Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Neville kicked off proceedings, saying: “For me, Erik ten Hag had no choice, no option. Cristiano’s left the ground twice and you can’t do that. His Instagram post said ‘I respect my teammates and sometimes in the heat of the moment you do something wrong’, on the eve of pre-season he asked for a transfer, he’s building up a list of things.

“It’s a messy end and Ten Hag is trying to establish control. I always think about the fact Ronaldo has played 100s of games where players have had to watch him. You have to make sure you’re in the changing room, shaking players’ hands and then you have it out with the manager separately. It’s not about Erik ten Hag. He had no other choice, but the players in the dressing room had to have some action against them.

“Lots of players have watched him, now he’s had to watch them. Your career is like a mountain; you’re in for a few games, out the team, get back in, and then you get to the top of the mountain, and then you have to accept whether you play for a big club and accept less games, or you go to a lesser club and play all the time. Cristiano is going to have to go somewhere else that’s going to play him every week because he can’t accept being on the bench.

“That’s fine. End it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup. It’s not doing him any favours. Leaving the dressing room before full-time, that’s not what he does. if you’re doing things like that you’ve got to leave.”

Keane replied: “Gary, there are players at Man United who have done a lot worse than what he’s done.”

Neville responded with a short answer: “In this current moment?”

Keane hit back: “Where do you want me to get started? Scholsey’s [Paul Scholes], great lad… let me finish. Scholsey refused to play at Man United.”

“I know he did,” Neville responded.

Keane continued: “We said nothing to him.”

Neville said: “He was fined two weeks’ wages.”

Keane hit back, turning the conversation back to Ronaldo: “Ronaldo will be fined for this, but he’ll find his way back. Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test; he got banned for eight months. [Eric] Cantona…”

Neville responded: “He [Cantona] was banned for six months.”

Keane continued: “Yes, whose fault is that? The club’s fault or the teammates’?”

Neville then put a question to Keane, continuing: “Do you not think Cristiano Ronaldo should be punished this week?”

Keane was firm in his response, making it clear that he felt Ronaldo should be fined for his actions, saying: “Dead right. You’re saying he can’t deal with being sub. He was top goalscorer [last season].”

Being blunt, referencing Ronaldo’s struggles to dealing with being a substitute, Neville said: “He can’t.”

Keane then showed his support for Ronaldo, saying: “They played Man City a few weeks ago and it could’ve been 16 [goals they conceded]. The manager says, ‘I’m not bringing him on’ because he didn’t want to disrespect Ronaldo. He goes to Everton a week later, comes on, scores a goal. Starts against Newcastle…”

Neville, turning up the heat on the conversation, said: “Roy, there’s not many Manchester United fans who would have Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting XI.”

Keane then took aim at United’s supporters, saying: “I couldn’t care less what fans think. I couldn’t care less. A lot of the fans haven’t got a clue what’s going on.”

Neville hit back, continuing: “They score more goals without him and they get more points without him. That’s a fact. He’s coming to the end of his career and Manchester United are a better team without him. He’s just got to get used to it or leave.”

Keane responded: “That’s fine. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, which he obviously thinks, there’s arguments for and against.”

Fellow Sky Sports pundit and studio guest Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink then dipped into the debate and asked Keane: “Do you think he’s been treated unfairly?”

Keane replied: “I think he probably feels that.”

Neville then said: “I heard you before the game saying, ‘your mentality is a unique mentality. You’re fiercely competitive, you have to play, what you’ve done in your career’. Normal folk, normal players, that’s not what you do, you don’t leave the changing room and go off the pitch.”

Keane responded: “You keep talking about Man United being better without Ronaldo… let’s look at the start of the season [when United were poor] and he didn’t play against Man City.”

Neville said: “Do you not think they’re better without him? Come on!”

“In the starting XI? No, I wouldn’t say that,” responded Keane.

Neville replied: “I think they’re better without him.”

Keane hit back again, saying: “Would you hang your hat on [Anthony] Martial, or even [Marcus] Rashford, or Ronaldo? Ronaldo came to Man United when he was 17, we loved him. We loved everything about him because he wanted to be the best, simple as that. He had his critics then because he was going over quickly and had no end product. But what I love about Ronaldo now… he’s 37, he’s had enough and he snapped. He’s 37 and still wants to be the best in the world – and that’s why I admire him. We sit here week in, week out and we praise bad players.”

Neville responded: “Roy Keane the manager would deal with it. Roy Keane the manager would have to deal with him.”

Keane said: “There’s players at Manchester United [who have done stuff]; Antony went on strike at Ajax to come to Manchester United. Ten Hag, the manager, says it’s all about the spirit, the group.”

Neville then defended Ten Hag, saying: “Ten Hag’s not criticised him; he’s handled it well. He’s been calm with it. Ten Hag’s not come out, stitched him up and said he’s out of order. He said, ‘I’ve spoken about Cristiano enough’.”

Keane continued: “He’s talking about the spirit after the game. Do you not think he’s speaking to Ronaldo? Ten Hag left Ajax to come to Man United, he should be competing for league titles.”

Neville said: He walked off against Everton after being left out by Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] in one of his first games, shaking his head at the end of the game. He was doing that with the body language to Rashford, he knows what he’s doing. He’s experienced and players of that power have a real negative impact when they do it.”

Keane, still defending Ronaldo, replied: “They all do it. I’d be worried if he was happy to be taken off.”

Neville continued: “The influence they have on other players is really negative, they’re in an influential position. I love him to bits but you can’t defend him leaving the ground twice [the other being vs Rayo Vallecano].”

“I’m not saying that, and there was other players who left,” Keane stressed. “They will get punished. We were with players who did it and got punished – it’s a mistake, of course. But he gives you something back. We sit here every week praising bad players.”

Hasselbaink chipped in: “He does not give enough back at the moment. He doesn’t.”

Keane disagreed: “He scores a goal every two games.”

“He doesn’t,” replied Hasselbaink.

Keane was having none of it, continuing: “He does. Do you want the stats? He scores a goal every two games.”

Hasselbaink said: “They lose games with him, they can’t carry him.”

Keane responded: “They lost at Man City, they lost at home to Brighton and they lost to Brentford; they’re all celebrating like they’ve won the league. They’re fifth in the league!”

Neville then rejoined the argument, saying: “Did you see the comments from [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Giorgio] Chiellini? They’re two great pros.”

Keane hit back: “Who said they’re great pros? Have you been in the dressing room with them?”

Neville responded: “Roy, they’ve been top players for 20 years and have won lots of trophies. The same things happened at Manchester United. We know him, we love him but he can’t accept not being the star man. He’s going to have to leave, that’s it. That’s all it is.”

Keane then made it clear when he felt Ronaldo should have left: “He should’ve left in August, but hopefully [it will now be] in January.”

Neville then responded: “I hope he leaves next week.”

Keane then asked: “He can’t leave next week, can he?”

Neville continued: “He can say to the club, ‘thank you very much’ and find a new club, because I’d like to see him score goals until he’s 42, scoring 1000 goals.”

Keane, though, hinted at why he believes United should keep him: “If he’s doing the business, which he was doing in a bad Manchester United team… he missed pre-season; no matter what player you are that has a huge impact. Ronaldo won’t play every game.”

Hasselbaink chipped in: “He won’t settle for that, and I’m a big Ronaldo lover.”

Keane continued: “What I’d say about Ten Hag is, he’s made a lot of decisions. He’s got to win football matches but he’s not winning enough of them; they’re fifth in the league. They beat Tottenham and they’re acting like they’ve won the European Cup. They beat Spurs last season, Ronaldo got a hat-trick. If you’ve got a striker who’s scoring every two games you’ll do for me.”

“Scoring goals, and I know it sounds crazy, is the most important thing,” Neville responded. “But you can be a better team without just goalscorers; it’s happened time and time again. Sometimes you can have two players up front. Mark Hughes wasn’t the greatest goalscorer in the world, but you’re better if you’ve got someone to play off. Cristiano’s just become a natural goalscorer and Erik ten Hag doesn’t want that.”

Keane replied: “He certainly feels what’s gone on and thinks he’s been unfairly treated. If you feel that as a senior pro, there’s a justified anger. You’re going to react that way, but he’s got flaws like we all have.”

Hasselbaink commented: He can’t react that way, it’s unforgivable.”

Neville said: “You’ve got a choice to make at the end of your career if you’ve been a great player, which he has, and do you accept coming out of the team playing 25 games a season, or do you have 40 games a season that aren’t that good? That’s what every player that is great has to decide. He won’t settle for 25 games a season; his mentality is, ‘I have to play every minute’.”

Keane hit back, saying: “He deserves more than 25 games a season.”

Neville then put a potentially controversial question to Keane, asking: “Roy, are you suggesting, and I don’t think it’s the case, but are you suggesting that Ten Hag has a personal vendetta against Ronaldo? Because I don’t think that’s the case.”

Keane answered: “I don’t see it that way, but I can understand why Ronaldo’s reacting the way he has. We’ve seen top players react that way.”

Neville continued: “What’s important to Cristiano is that he wants to keep scoring at the highest level. Goals are everything to him. Playing for his team is everything to him. He wants to play in the Champions League because of that record he has; he’s 10 to 12 ahead of [Lionel] Messi – that’s so important to him. That battle that they’ve had for all those years, he’s not going to give it up easily. He wants to go to a team in the Champions League, he’s on a lot of money, £400,000, £500,000-per-week.”

Keane responded: “He’s a billionaire, Gary, he doesn’t care about money.”

Neville said: “He has to accept less money to go to a Champions League club and play, or he has to go play for a non-Champions League football. Some were saying he was offered £130million to play in Saudi Arabia – he’s not going to do that. Sporting Lisbon were mentioned, or [another] Portuguese club.”

Keane continued: “The fact he still wants to do that is fantastic. We go to games every week and we watch some bad games, we praise bad players. We watch players who are finished at 32, 33. They take a big pay packet to the States, China, wherever, or they retire. This guy wants to keep on playing. I’m not giving him a thumbs up for his behaviour, far from it.”

Neville hit back again, adding: “Is that not what the problem is here? We’re all here giving him the thumbs up for his good attitude, but what we’re saying is he stormed off to the car park, meaning he is suspended and fined two weeks’ wages. So what?”

Keane added: “So what? So what’s the big deal?”

Ahead of the programming drawing towards its conclusion, Neville said: “So what? Don’t finish, forget the promos!”

Keane added: “If Ronaldo played most of the games he’d still be the leading goalscorer.”

Neville put a final question to Keane: “Do you think Manchester United will be better and win more points as a team [with Ronaldo]?”

Keane answered: “Yes.”

Neville disagreed: “I don’t think so.”

“You asked me a question and I said I think so,” Keane concluded.

Hasselbaink brought the debate to a close, saying: “I don’t think so.”