Guardiola reveals his thought on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Manchester Derby
Pep Guardiola reveals his thought on Cristiano Ronaldo as obvious speculation suggests that Manchester United manager, Erik Ten Hag is set to recall the Portugal captain to the Red Devils’ starting XI for the derby on Sunday.
The 37-year-old has been made to start from the bench while waiting for his opportunities after a summer of discontent poured into the new season. For much of the window, Ronaldo seemed determined to engineer an exit with reports suggesting he wanted a return to the Champions League.
But for all of the speculation, he would remain at Old Trafford, albeit with an unfamiliar role he has rarely adopted in his long and illustrious career – super sub. In United’s six Premier League games, Ronaldo has started just once and that came in their worst display of the season as they were thrashed 4-0 by Brentford.
But with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both struggling to make this weekend’s clash at the Etihad, Erik ten Hag has little choice but to throw the veteran back into the line-up. In public, the United boss has remained entirely positive about the Portuguese icon, insisting he is a key part of his plan for revolution at Old Trafford.
However, actions speak louder than words and his continued omission had suggested that the Dutchman was happy to move forward without Ronaldo as a starter. That now looks set to change and Pep Guardiola will be the man tasked with stopping a hungry Ronaldo, who has a point to prove to his detractors.
And his list of doubters is increasing with every passing week, with the Portuguese press demanding he is dropped from the national team and Antonio Cassano urging him to retire. “At this point, Cristiano should love himself, do himself a favour and understand that, if he cannot reach a level, he must end his career. He has won everything, he has been a phenomenon. Now it’s time to retire,” the former Real Madrid striker said.
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Guardiola won’t be joining that list though and knows exactly the type of challenge his side will face. The former Barcelona boss has come up against Ronaldo for much of his management career and is fully aware of the threat he possesses.
“He’s been one of the greatest in the last 15 years, alongside [Lionel] Messi,” the Spaniard said last year. “What these two guys have done, we’re not going to see again.
“When you achieve these things, under scrutiny every second of your life and today, even more now with social media. As a finisher he’s exceptional, I’m not going to disguise it was a joy to watch him these years.”
Before their meeting last season, Guardiola even admitted he had to hatch a special plan to stop one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the game. “We have to explode our game, our strength to avoid Cristiano close to the box because there he is almost unstoppable,” he explained.
“I remember when we played there and we were winning 1-0 and in control, perfect, perfect, and then the first time arrived he made a chance and Eddy [Ederson Moraes] made an incredible save. He hadn’t touched the ball but nearly scored. That is the quality and ability that he has.
“We have to control him. When you are one of the greatest that he was in terms of being a goalscoring machine, you will always be there. He is so strong mentally. He handled pressure without a problem because he lived with expectation through his career and always responded in a positive way.”