Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag keen to replace Ronaldo in January

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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is keen to find a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo when the transfer window opens next month.

Ten Hag has already admitted he did not want to lose the striker, 37, but his destructive interview with Piers Morgan made it impossible to keep him.

Ronaldo’s exit means United are short on numbers up front and Ten Hag will assess top-level number nine options.

“We will do everything in our power [to sign the right player],” he said.

While they do not exactly fit the template, Ten Hag likes fellow Dutchman Cody Gakpo, 23, at PSV Eindhoven, and Benfica’s 21-year-old frontman Goncalo Ramos, who scored a hat-trick when he replaced Ronaldo in the Portugal side for their World Cup last-16 win against Switzerland.

“I cannot give comments on specific players,” added the United boss. “I will never do that. Players have contracts and I respect that.

However, with Ronaldo gone, Jadon Sancho on a fitness programme following injury and Marcus Rashford and Antony having been on World Cup duty, Martial is likely to be a key figure when the domestic campaign resumes against Burnley in the EFL Cup on 21 December.

“We have seen, when he is available, he has a massive impact on our game,” said Ten Hag.

“He has less than 300 minutes [this season] and has four goals and two assists. That’s a really good record.

“The first challenge for him is to be available and fit. He has to be responsible for it, but we have to support him in all the ways we can.”

“We are doing research on every opportunity and we do everything we can if that opportunity is there to contract them.”

Persuading clubs to release players in January has never been easy and United sources have felt most potential buyers have been biding their time until the full impact of World Cup performances is known.

The Old Trafford outfit spent more than anticipated in the summer, bringing in Antony, Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez, although Ronaldo’s salary being removed from the wage bill following his departure from the club does mean a multi-million pound saving over the remainder of the season.