Erik ten Hag has said he slept well after making the contentious decision to bench Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford earlier this season.
Ten Hag benched Ronaldo in only his third game in charge at Old Trafford to lay down the order after overtaking a dressing room that lacked discipline and committment to the cause.
It was the first of several crucial decisions that the Dutch manager made that paid off dividends, with the Portuguese striker forcing an acrimonious exit from the team in November.
Ronaldo gave a bombshell interview to Piers Morgan in late November in which he said he didn’t respect Ten Hag, and took aim at the Glazers, and that the young stars at the club lacked the mindset required to succeed.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was furious by Ten Hag’s treatment, and he had consistently undermined the Dutchman’s decision-making by not coming on as a substitute against Tottenham and fleeing the stadium after being left on the bench as an unused substitute.
But it was the “tell-all” interview with Piers Morgan that proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Ronaldo, who was fired from Old Trafford shortly afterwards that contentious interview.
When questioned about the critical decision to keep Ronaldo out of the starting lineup for the very first time in the reverse fixture against Liverpool back in August, the manager responded: “I do consider big decisions like that, definitely.
“I have to look at the impact they make, not only in the short term but also for the longer term. You always have to think strategically as a manager and face the consequences. I am aware of it but that is my job and my responsibility,”
When asked if he was concerned about how the Ronaldo decision would be received by the clubs’ supporters who adore the player, he said: “I had reasons to choose that team against Liverpool. They were obvious. And I knew the reaction if it had been a negative outcome, which is always possible in football.”
“But I am not worrying. I sleep well also on those nights. I have to take decisions in respect of the club and the team. I have to stand by those decisions,” the 53-year-old said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the big game against arch-rivals Liverpool.
The fortunes of both sides have significantly changed since the two sides first met in August. Ronaldo’s time at Old Trafford came to an end with the game, as he left the team in favour of a bumper move to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Ten Hag will line up his team to visit Anfield while still in contention for three trophies, with the EFL Cup already in the bag.
The Red Devils are riding on the crest of the wave, and are on a four-game winning streak in all competitions heading into the blockbuster Sunday night fixture.
On the other hand, Liverpool are currently sixth in the table, and have had trouble picking up points in the league.
This will be the 32nd Premier League meeting between the Reds and the Red Devils. Anfield awaits an exciting German-Dutch manager tactical clash.