THE SPIRIT in the Manchester United camp out in Bangkok and Australia pointed to a new positive start for the club.
While Erik ten Hag made the point that such tours had their downside, in terms of travel etc.. he felt the two-and-a-half weeks together would help the players bond again.
Ronaldo is desperate to leave Man UtdCredit: Rex
Ten Hag got off to a losing start as Man Utd bossCredit: Rex
He could sense how down everyone was after the end to last season and wanted to put a smile back on faces.
The new boss looked to have achieved that.
The social media postings of players having fun and indeed the performances looked like the dark clouds had been cast away.
Questions about Ronaldo would always come up, but he wasn’t with them and Ten Hag was enjoying working with the players he had.
Then they returned and it all blew up again and the work done in pre-season looks to have been washed away.
Ronaldo, 37, is such a huge figure at the club that his mood seems to permeate through the camp.
He is clearly not in a good one.
Having missed the tour his first action came in an Old Trafford friendly against Rayo Vallecano.
He missed an early chance then there was a bizarre passage of play when James Garner passed the ball to him on half way and Ronaldo passed it straight back.
He did that four times in all before, Garner by now being closed down passed the ball sideways to someone else.
Ronaldo and the manager would have words during that half when in a break of play he called the players to his technical area.
Ronaldo’s reaction to the instructions he was being given was to put his hands out to his sides and seemingly protest.
It was not a good look and he was hooked at half-time then left the stadium before the end of the game.
For a manager who had been preaching ‘togetherness’ throughout the tour, this was ‘unacceptable’.
At the training ground his brooding figure is getting some players down.
A lot of the younger ones who were excited at his arrival, often feel kowtowed by his presence.
The immediate problem is that United do not have a recognised fit striker without him.
Anthony Martial missed the first game with a hamstring problem and while he had a good pre-season it remains to be seen whether that will translate itself into the Premier League.
Their inexplicable and short lived pursuit of former Stoke and West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic from Bologna was abandoned when a £7.6million offer was rejected.
They weren’t going to pay any more and the outcry from supporters also had a say in their u-turn.
Ten Hag tried to play Christian Eriksen as a false nine against Brighton and it simply did not work.
When Ronaldo did come on United looked better, but not much.
While there were cheers when he entered the field of play there were boos as well.
The group that waited above the tunnel when Ronaldo walked off at the end gestured as if to say ‘just go’.
The problem is Ten Hag may have little choice but to play him in the next game against Brentford.
Hopes resting on someone who won’t even want to be there – how does a club the size of Manchester United get into such a mess?
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