Man Utd ‘squad split’ over Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire captaincy disagreement

Man Utd's pre-season schedule as Red Devils head for Australia

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Cristiano Ronaldo was at the core of a split within the Manchester United squad last season over Harry Maguire’s status as captain. The captaincy row was one of many problems at Old Trafford throughout a tumultuous 2021-22 campaign, and it’s something Erik ten Hag will need to resolve early in his tenure.

Ronaldo’s sensational return was met with mass surprise among fans last summer, but it didn’t come without questions. The 37-year-old’s iconic career and quality plummetted Maguire’s authority as club captain into doubt, which his inconsistent form didn’t help.

BBC report the United squad was torn in a dispute over who the dressing room leader should’ve been last term after Ronaldo’s arrival shook the dynamic up. Bruno Fernandes’ standout form since he joined in 2020 and the signing of Raphael Varane also threw Maguire’s status into doubt amongst supporters.

Ten Hag has met the first batch of his new squad at Carrington after starting pre-season training on Sunday. But Maguire and Ronaldo aren’t expected back until early July after their involvement in the Nations League fixtures earlier this month.

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BBC’s revealing analysis of United’s issues in their worst-ever Premier League season was largely focused on interim manager Ralf Rangnick and his deteriorated relationship with football director John Murtough. Rangnick was due to enter a two-year consultancy role, but Ten Hag opted against working with the German, and he left the club to manage Austria.

Rangnick was ‘barely on speaking terms’ with Murtough by the end of his torrid spell in charge. The outspoken nature of his press conferences didn’t sit well with those at the club, including players, and Murtough was disappointed at the lack of protection for his squad members.

Ten Hag will hold plenty of power this season, working closely with the football director and his deputy, Andy O’Boyle, over football decisions and recruitment. It remains to be seen whether the Dutchman will personally decide his new captain or take it to a dressing room vote, as Rangnick suggested in the final month of his reign.

Maguire will be keen to avoid surrendering the captain’s armband, but many feel it could be helpful to take him out of the spot line and help him rediscover his confidence and form. Ronaldo would likely be the overwhelming choice of skipper, should it be taken to a vote among Ten Hag’s squad.

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