Ronaldo could return to Man United squad for Europa League game

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Manchester United at Goodison Park on October 09, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, England — Cristiano Ronaldo is back in contention for Manchester United after talks with manager Erik ten Hag.

The Portugal striker could play against FC Sheriff in the Europa League on Thursday after being cut from the 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend and being made to train away from the first-team squad.

Ronaldo was punished for refusing to come on as a substitute in last week’s 2-0 win over Tottenham, which raised fresh doubts about his future at United.

But ten Hag said Wednesday that the issue has now been resolved after talking to the forward.

“Cristiano will be in the squad tomorrow,” the Dutchman said at his pre-match news conference. “I think we said everything and we answered all the questions, he was out for one game and is back in the squad as usual.

“It’s done, he’s back, focus on the game, that’s important that Cristiano is involved in the squad tomorrow.”

Ronaldo has been an unwanted distraction during Ten Hag’s short reign at United after failing to secure a summer transfer to a team playing in the Champions League.

Ronaldo was criticized, along with other players, for leaving a pre-season game early — and his behavior against Spurs led to the one-game punishment.

While ten Hag has said Ronaldo remains in his plans, there are still doubts over whether he can play a key role in the team.

United was unable to bring in a striker in the summer but, with Ronaldo out of contract at the end of the season, the club will need to fill the void if the 37-year-old Portugal international leaves.

It has traditionally been difficult to bring in major signings during the January transfer window but ten Hag said long-term planning was underway when asked if he had the funds to recruit in the new year.

“In the background we always continue a process working on the squad,” he said. “So we want to have a top sport culture, and you see and examine how you can improve and that’s what we will do.”

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