Manchester United flew to Oslo without Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of their friendly against Atlético Madrid today as the unsettled Portugal star hit out at the scrutiny over his situation.
Ronaldo – who wants to leave Old Trafford this summer – was left behind in Manchester as Erik ten Hag took a strong squad including new signings Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez to the Norwegian capital for the game against Atlético at the Ullevaal Stadium.
Ten Hag will use the match as the final warm-up for his planned starting XI against Brighton in their Premier League opener tomorrow week, when Anthony Martial is expected to start at centre-forward.
Having missed all of United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia citing family reasons, Ronaldo, who only returned to the club on Tuesday when his agent Jorge Mendes reiterated the player’s desire to leave during crunch talks with the club, is considered to be well behind the rest of the group in terms of fitness.
United are also due to play Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford tomorrow in what will be Ten Hag’s first game in charge at the stadium, and Ronaldo could be involved in some capacity in that game, which is expected to feature more fringe players and youngsters.
Defenders Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw were also missing from the Oslo tour party with some absences being put down to illness or injury.
Ronaldo, who is eager to carry on playing in the Champions League, appeared to hit back at the intense speculation over his future in a cryptic Instagram post as he broke his silence.
“Impossible not to talk about me one day,” Ronaldo wrote. “Otherwise the press makes no money. You know that if you don’t lie you can’t get people’s attention. Keep going that one day you get some news right.”
The message, which ended with a crying and laughing face emoji and a thumbs-up emoji, appeared to be in response to a post from a fan account that claimed Alex Ferguson, the former United manager, had intervened in talks after Mendes told the club his client was adamant about leaving. There is no suggestion Ferguson has intervened.
United, meanwhile, continue to explore options to strengthen their attack. United have held talks with representatives of the 6ft 4in teenage RB Salzburg and Slovenia striker Benjamin Sesko. Salzburg are reported to want at least €65m to consider parting ways with the 19-year-old, which is far more than United would be prepared to pay.
Ajax also appear to have priced Antony out of a move to Old Trafford. Talks between United and the Dutch club over the Brazil forward have been live for some time.
Ten Hag has made clear that he needs reinforcements in attack if United are to be successful this season.
At present, the only match-fit senior options available to the manager are Martial, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga.
United are still hoping to sign Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona but the deal remains fraught with problems.
Ten Hag, meanwhile, has overseen a permanent switch of the match-day dugouts of the home and away teams at Old Trafford. The new home dugout will see home staff and players move closer to the Stretford End.
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