Manchester United players feel “pressured” by Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence on the pitch and want him to remain on the bench this season as they believe they are better off with Marcus Rashford up front.
Ronaldo has only started two games this season and has yet to open his account for the 2022-23 season.
The Portuguese legend and his representatives spent much of the summer trying to force a move from United but failed to find any suitable offers.
Owing to his desire to leave United and “family issues”, Ronaldo was absent for a large part of the club’s pre-season schedule and was therefore deemed unfit for United’s opening-day defeat by Brighton.
But Ronaldo has had to settle for a supporting role since regaining fitness and starting just one of United’s six Premier League games to date and Thursday night’s Europa League defeat by Real Sociedad.
Ronaldo is keen to be given a more prominent role in the team but his teammates believe he should stay on the bench, according to The Sun.
It is claimed the squad see Rashford as a better option in Erik ten Hag’s system as the England international scored a brace in United’s 3-1 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal last weekend.
Ten Hag is also a Rashford fan and believes the Old Trafford Academy graduate can score at least 20 goals this season and help United challenge Manchester City for the title.
A source told The Sun: “The manager wants Marcus to become United’s No. 1 forward and run the line forward.
“He believes Marcus has the ability to be one of the best in the world and wants him to express himself through games.
“He always tells him to use his pace and his skills whenever he gets a chance. He told Marcus that he will easily score 20 points this season. They have a great relationship and Marcus is really happy.”
They added: “As long as Ronaldo starts on the bench, players have the confidence to express themselves.
“With Ronaldo on the pitch, the team feels pressured. All the players loved it when Ronaldo came back but are frustrated that he missed the pre-season.
“Ronaldo is not up to date and relies on his instincts – but that doesn’t work in the Ten Hag system.”
Former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam admits Ronaldo will not be happy with his reduced role in the Theater of Dreams but has backed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to contribute this season.
“Cristiano is a fantastic player and I don’t know if he’s going to be a problem,” Stam said Metro.co.uk on behalf of Bet365. “He’s still a good player, a great goalscorer.
“He came after the preseason because he wasn’t fit enough and the manager made decisions using players who were fit and ready to start.
“Also in terms of how he wants to play and how intense the player is, but Ronaldo is a player who wants to play every game.
“I don’t think he’s the type of player who has his quality and has achieved what he has on the pitch to be happy on the bench, so he’ll show himself and push the others to perform.
“Having someone like him is great for the team and the coach. I was at the Arsenal game and from the touchline it looks like Ronaldo is making a positive impact on the players on the bench, before the game, during the game, now he’s more or less settled into his role and the team to do so.
“I can’t believe he’s okay with the role he’s in now and happy with it. A player of his stature and as a man he will be knocking on the manager’s door. He’s a great professional, so eventually he’ll get his goals for the team.
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