Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction to Antony’s opening goal for Manchester United spoke volumes as he celebrated from the substitutes’ bench after the Red Devils took the lead against Arsenal at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag’s marquee signing took the game by the scruff of the neck and managed to find the back of the net with a composed finish inside the area as half-time approached.
Antony was slipped in by Marcus Rashford on the edge of the box and made no mistake as he guided the ball past Aaron Ramsdale and into the far corner to spark wild celebrations from the vast majority of fans inside Old Trafford. Ronaldo was also visibly delighted to see United’s new man get off to a flying start and made his feelings known as he stood up to applaud the former Ajax winger from the bench.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s reaction was a welcome sight for those connected with the Red Devils after a summer transfer window that was dominated by suggestions that he could leave the club after just one season back at his old stomping ground. Ronaldo was supposedly desperate to cut ties with United in order to play Champions League football elsewhere, but ultimately ended up staying on their books despite reportedly instructing his representatives to find him another employer.
No such move came about for the Portuguese forward and he will now be forced to stay at Old Trafford until at least January as a result of his failure to secure a summer exit. He was thought to have received only one offer from Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, which was swiftly turned down in spite of the lucrative financial incentives that were promised to him.
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It seems as though Ronaldo has finally come to terms with the fact that he is at United to stay for the time being, with his positive reaction to Antony’s goal against Arsenal suggesting that he remains fully committed to the Red Devils despite pushing to leave for the duration of the summer window. He has been forced to take on a new bench-warming role over the course of the campaign to date, with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga having been preferred to start in United’s last few outings.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, recently admitted that he is harbouring concerns over Ronaldo’s fitness levels after the 37-year-old missed a large chunk of the club’s pre-season preparations.
“I will be his friend and sometimes I will be his teacher, it depends on the situation,” said Ten Hag.
“As we all know he didn’t have the pre-season and you cannot miss the pre-season. It is a base and especially in the game we play, the way of play.
“We play another type compared to last year. It depends on the demands, cooperation and certain positioning [of players], in and out of position, and the other thing is fitness.”
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