Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag insists he wants Cristiano Ronaldo to stay at Old Trafford despite leaving out the unsettled star for a second successive Premier League game.
Ronaldo started on the bench for United’s 1-0 win at Southampton on Saturday before making a largely anonymous substitute appearance in the second half.
The Portugal striker has been pushing for a transfer since the end of last term after United’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League.
But Ronaldo has found it impossible to attract one of Europe’s top clubs, with the latest reports linking him with the likes of his former team Sporting Lisbon, as well as Napoli and Marseille.
With Thursday’s transfer deadline looming, United remain adamant the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is not for sale in the second season of his second spell with the club.
But the sight of Ronaldo stopping to salute the United fans after the final whistle at St Mary’s convinced some observers that the 37-year-old was preparing to say farewell.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus star finished as United’s top scorer last season, but Ten Hag’s team have looked more threatening with him, beating both Liverpool and Southampton since he was dropped after starting in the humiliating 4-0 loss at Brentford.
Publicly at least, Ten Hag is sticking by Ronaldo, saying: “We played with him. So we want him to stay. That is what we want. I hope so.”
United have been linked with several forwards who could potentially replace Ronaldo, including Ajax star Anthony, who played under Ten Hag during his reign at the Dutch club.
However, Ten Hag reiterated he would be satisfied even if United were not able to sign another central striker this week.
“We have Cristiano Ronaldo, we have Anthony Martial, we have Marcus Rashford, so then we are OK,” he said.
Ten Hag has already landed Brazil midfielder Casemiro, who made his debut as a late substitute against Southampton after completing his transfer from Real Madrid on Monday.
Ten Hag was pleased to get him involved as he looks to revamp United’s underwhelming central midfield.
“I think it was quite good for him to see what the Premier League is (like), its different style,” Ten Hag said.
“He has played some games, he played one time 90 minutes, but he is fit, he had a good pre-season with a lot of training sessions
“Now we have to integrate him in a team, in a way of play, and integrate him with his team-mates.”