Erik ten Hag saluted his Manchester United players for channelling the spirit of Fergie Time to end a turbulent few days on a high. The manager watched Casemiro head a stoppage-time equaliser at Chelsea before once again addressing the issue of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not at Stamford Bridge but remained in the thoughts of everybody.
Ten Hag suspended Ronaldo after the striker refused to enter as a late substitute in Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over Tottenham and stormed off down the touchline. Ten Hag wants to hear contrition from Ronaldo before he invites him back into first-team training on Monday.
Asked how important the point against Chelsea was after the Ronaldo flashpoint, Ten Hag said: “Of course it was a big moment in the matter of the week to get a point and it was a well-deserved point.
“But it doesn’t have any matter with the case [of Ronaldo] because [with that] it is more important to have the right culture, the right standards and values. For the longer term it is always more important and in the end that will bring you into the right position.
“I’m happy with this point when you are capable to fight back like we did. We did it last week against Omonia [in the Europa League] to get the win [in the last minute] and we did it here. When you are down and you show resilience, that is a really big thing for big teams to have in their capabilities. That is what Casemiro, among others, is bringing to this squad, this team.”
The occasion was marred by homophobic chants from the United enclosure, with Ten Hag saying that they did not belong in the stadium. The Football Association added in a statement: “The FA strongly condemns the use of the term ‘rent boy’ and we are determined to drive it out of our game. We continue to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service as well as the UK Football Policing Unit, in relation to the use of this term.
“We stand firmly against all forms of discrimination and we are striving to ensure our game is a safe environment for all, which truly embraces diversity and challenges hateful conduct both on and off the pitch. We believe football is everybody’s game, and we will continue to do our utmost to use our influence to drive meaningful change so that our game is for all.”
Chelsea issued a statement, saying: “Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour totally unacceptable and we condemn the language used by some individuals today at Stamford Bridge. We are proud to be supporting Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and today acts as proof that we must do more to make football a game for everyone.”
United lost Raphaël Varane to a muscle injury, the defender walking off round the edge of the pitch and plainly fearing for his chances of playing in the World Cup for France. He was abused by the Chelsea support as he fought to control his emotions.
“When Varane came out [of the game], it [the abuse] was the same on the other side with the Chelsea fans, so don’t do it,” Ten Hag said.
The Ronaldo situation dominated the discussion in the Sky Sports studio, with Gary Neville saying that his old teammate must leave United. “Cristiano Ronaldo is going to have to go, I think, to somewhere else that’s going to play him every week because he can’t accept being on the bench. I think end it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup and then end it because it has to end.”
Bruno Fernandes, the United captain, said: “We don’t talk about that. We keep it inside. We have to deal with that inside and no one else has to know what we want or think. The most important thing for everyone including Cristiano is that the team wins.”