Graeme Souness and Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag (Pictures: Sky Sports/Getty)
Ten Hag has banished Ronaldo from United’s first-team after the Portugal legend refused to come on during last week’s Premier League win over Tottenham and left the stadium early.
Ronaldo did not travel with his team-mates for Saturday’s clash against Chelsea and it remains to be seen whether he will come back into the reckoning for his week’s fixtures against Sheriff and West Ham.
The 37-year-old has been widely condemned for his behaviour, although former Manchester United captain Roy Keane leaped to his defence over the weekend, claiming several other United players have done worse over the years.
Souness agrees with Keane’s assessment of the situation and says Ronaldo deserves a ‘pass’ because he is an Old Trafford hero and one of the greatest players of all-time.
The Liverpool legend also believes Ten Hag has created a ‘massive problem’ and ‘shot himself in the foot’ by making Ronaldo ‘unhappy’.
Souness told talkSPORT: ‘In five years, Ten Hag will be away from the club and nobody will talk about him and his spell as Manchester United ever again, but Ronaldo will always be remembered as arguably the greatest to have ever kicked a football.
‘Does that give Ronaldo a pass? It does, in my opinion.
‘This is Ronaldo, he is one of the game’s greats and you have to cut him some slack and keep him on side. You know that if you’ve got an unhappy Ronaldo in your dressing room that you’ve got a major problem for yourself.
‘Let’s go back to the beginning – before the season had even started Ronaldo declared he wanted to leave. So I assume the manager has sat in front of the player and said to him, “You’re not leaving, I want you to stay here”.
‘I guarantee you the next sentence out of Ronaldo’s mouth would have been: “I want to play, that’s why I want to leave. I’m not playing enough”.
‘So the response to that from the manager would have been something to pacify Ronaldo to allow him to stay.
‘Ronaldo could just say, “I’m off, this is not for me anymore”. Ronaldo doesn’t need to be at Manchester United. That’s a fact. So Ronaldo must have heard words from the manager that made him stay at Man United.
‘Now I’ll take you to the Man City game when they were 6-3 down and the manager was asked why he didn’t put Ronaldo on, he said it was “out of respect”.
‘A few weeks later he wants him to go on four two minutes in a game where they’re 2-0 up, to run down the clock?
Cristiano Ronaldo has barely featured this season (Picture: Getty)
‘I think this is a problem Manchester United have made for themselves. They have shot themselves in the foot.
‘It’s a very poor football decision to keep a player who Ten Hag knew he wasn’t going to use very much, who he must have said something to get him to stay. You cannot ignore that.
‘I think what Ronaldo has done is wrong. I get why he didn’t come on but I don’t condone it. What I’m saying is there must be a reason for that. It must go back to the start of the season and that conversation with Ten Hag.
‘I would have ironed it out with Ronaldo on day one to make sure he clearly understands what he’s staying for. I would personally use him very differently, but I still think he’s got something to offer.
‘Right now Manchester United look to have turned a corner with their performance on the pitch, they are going in the right direction, but they have caused themselves a problem that was totally necessary.
‘I think the manager, the football club and the other people making football decisions at Manchester United have got this one wrong.’
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‘You’ve shot yourself in the foot.’