The Red Devils have made a solid start to the season, losing their opening two matches of the campaign before hitting some good form and winning their next four. Victories over Arsenal and Liverpool have drawn plenty of praise, with Ten Hag slowly implementing his style on the side.
And United’s wins have largely come without Ronaldo, who has started one league game so far this season. The 37-year-old has been left out as he did not train with the squad in pre-season – when he was pushing for an exit – and therefore is not up to speed.
Many have criticised Ten Hag for not playing Ronaldo frequently, though Varane feels that the ‘demands’ of the game make it logical. The Frenchman explained to TCL Global: “As we said, Ronaldo is here. And, as we all know, he didn’t have a pre-season. You cannot miss pre-season. It’s a base.
“Especially with the game we play, the way we want to play. We don’t play in the same way we did last year, there is no comparison. This demands cooperation and it demands certain positioning in – and out – of possession. The other thing is his fitness.”
With Ronaldo warming the bench, Ten Hag has played Marcus Rashford as a No 9, who has scored three and assisted two in six appearances. But the England international is ruled out of United’s Europa League tie against FC Sheriff on Thursday evening through injury, potentially handing Ronaldo the chance to impress.
Speaking about Rashford’s injury, Ten Hag explained: “He’s not available. The consequence after Arsenal, he has a muscle injury. No, I don’t think too long (his absence), but I cannot tell how long. It’s not really bad and we expect him to be back quite soon in the team.”
The injury will rule Rashford out of England’s upcoming international friendlies ahead of the winter World Cup in Qatar, though his manager is confident that the versatile forward could make an impact at the tournament if called upon by Gareth Southgate.
He said: “It’s quite obvious and quite clear (he can). He played really good seasons and this season he has had a great comeback. He’s shown his great potential and quality.”