Man United boss Erik Ten Hag takes first training session with Ronaldo, other big stars missing

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Erik ten Hag took charge of his first training session as head coach of Manchester United as his new squad – or at least a portion of it – reported back for preseason on Monday.

The Dutchman was joined by Sir Alex Ferguson’s former No. 2 Steve McClaren and Mitchell van der Gaag as the new coaching staff delivered their maiden address to the United players on the pitch at Carrington, though the group looked a little threadbare with several big hitters still absent on leave.

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Indeed, the modest 19-man group included several players who are unlikely to start the 2022-23 campaign at United having fallen out of favor under previous regimes and found themselves loaned out elsewhere last year.

Both Anthony Martial and Donny van Beek were in attendance despite the pair mustering just 280 minutes of Premier League football for United between them in 2021-22 before finding themselves seeing out the season at Everton and Sevilla respectively.

Among Ten Hag’s meagre crew were Axel Tuanzebe, Phil Jones, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams, all of whom have also been reportedly touted for possible summer exits.

Notable absences for United on the first day of preseason included Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still enjoying his summer holiday following the postseason round of international matches with Portugal.

As you might expect, he isn’t spending his final few hours of R&R soaking up the rays by the pool in Majorca. Instead, he’s been out on the football pitch in the sweltering heat along with his son Cristiano Jr. as the pair limber up together for the new season.

Elsewhere, club captain Harry Maguire will miss the start of preseason training at United after getting married last weekend in a lavish ceremony at a luxurious chateau in southern France.

The likes of Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane were among the first-team absentees granted extended leave by United while both Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba are currently in the process of finalizing moves to new clubs after their contracts expired.

Still, for a club so used to operating under constant, wearying tumult, Ten Hag’s first day in charge of United looked calm and serene as the former Ajax boss took his players through their preseason paces.

Ten Hag, 52, was all smiles as he waved to greet the various media members assembled at pitch-side for his first coaching session before joining McClaren to address his cohort in the Mancunian sunshine.

Luke Shaw, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford looked to be in fine fettle as the United players went through a succession of light drills as they attempted to catch the diligent eye of their new manager.

With a new contract extension reported to be in the works, United’s first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea did not appear to be suffering from any preseason rust as he tested his coordination and reflexes.

So all is well at United and Ten Hag’s reign begins amid an air of peaceful, productive harmony.

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