Dimitar Berbatov has told Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick that if Cristiano Ronaldo is fit, he must play him against Tottenham – or be ready to explain himself.
Ronaldo missed the thumping 4-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City last time out, with a recurring hip flexor problem keeping him out of the training.
The 37-year-old looks set to return to the squad for this weekend’s pivotal clash with Spurs, where only a win will maintain United’s hopes of a top-four finish.
On his fitness, Rangnick told reporters: “He resumed training yesterday. He trained the whole training session and I expect him to be in training today as well.”
Recent reports had suggested that Rangnick could prioritise next week’s Champions League last-16 second leg with Atletico Madrid and preserve Ronaldo for that game, over the meeting with Spurs.
But Berbatov, who retains great affection for both clubs going head-to-head this weekend, claims that if Rangnick is insistent on leaving him out, he must have the reasoning crystal clear in his mind.
“If he’s fit, I would play him for sure,” Berbatov told Mirror Football. “Let’s put aside the fact that he’s 37, age sometimes, it’s honestly just a number.
“He brings goals, he knows how to move on the pitch. He wants to win. In my opinion – if he’s not fit, then obviously don’t risk him – if he’s fit and the manager decides to drop him to the bench, go and speak with him first, explain your decision and why you’ve done it. Listen to what he’s going to say.
“In football, there are players and players. Ronaldo is an icon in football and he deserves for you to go there like a manager in your office and say: ‘Listen Cris, I’ve decided this and this and you need to take a rest.
“Always be honest with the players, this is very important.”
Prior to the thrashing at The Etihad Stadium, there had been a growing sentiment that United were a better outfit without the iconic forward leading the line.
However, Berbatov believes the no-show against their nearest rivals put paid to that theory and that a fit Ronaldo still does more than enough to warrant his place in the starting lineup.
“He didn’t play last time against City and you saw the score,” the Betfair ambassador explained. “So in my opinion, I think it’s wrong to say Ronaldo is in the way of the team playing good football.
“I think he’s one of the reasons that United can score goals, yes he’s 37 and his speed is not what it used to be, but he still brings goals and attention.
“In attention I mean to defenders so that other players can go around the free zones on the pitch.
“People saying that United could be better without Ronaldo is wrong in my opinion. I don’t think he’s the problem, I think the problem is complex as a team, they just don’t play good football.”