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Roy Keane has defended Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward was banished from Manchester United’s first-team squad.

As a result, Ronaldo was not included in Ten Hag’s squad for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea in the Premier League.

Speaking ahead of the match, former United captain Keane said Ronaldo deserved to be punished for his behaviour but understands why the Portuguese star is frustrated with his role this season.

“He [Ten Hag] is disappointed Ronaldo didn’t want to go on. The fact he walked down the tunnel, he’s been punished for it. But I try to see if from a player’s point of view. He’s had enough, he’s lost his head,” Keane told Sky Sports.

“It’s been brewing for the last few weeks with Ronaldo. But I will still try and defend him. He’s a human being, he’s got flaws, he’s frustrated he’s not got opportunities and he’s had enough. He’s walked down the tunnel, I think players have done worse a lot worse things at Man United. It happens, it’s human nature.

“United’s best performance in years? Absolute rubbish, Spurs were terrible. United beat Spurs last year at home and Ronaldo got a hat-trick. He was more than capable of getting onto the pitch and making a difference.

“He has to take his punishment. Is there a way back for him? I’m not sure. But I still think Ronaldo, his behaviour over the last week, he refused to go on… I’d be more worried if Ronaldo was sitting on the bench every week laughing his head off.

“I think he cares. This game is full of bluffers and he’s not one of them. He cares about the club, he wants to play, he needs to play. He’s a world class player. People saying he’s not the same player he was 10 years ago, of course he’s not.

“But he was the leading goalscorer for Man United last season. A bad Man United team, but still their leading goalscorer.

“The last few weeks he’s been frustrated after the City game. The Everton game where he came and scored but then he was taken off against Newcastle.

“The manager then wants to bring him on for a few minutes. They asked the manager in a press conference in the last few days whether Ronaldo refused to come on but they should have asked him ‘when were you going to put him on?’.

“Late in the game, two or three minutes to go, not too sure that was a clever move.”

United fans on social media have criticised Keane for appearing to defend Ronaldo, with some claiming their former captain is “scared” of criticising the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“If it was someone other than Ronaldo Roy Keane would be furious about it,” wrote one fan on Twitter.

Ronaldo has been banished from United’s first-team squad (Image: Alamy)”Roy Keane is a poor pundit. Our former players are so scared to criticise Ronaldo,” added another.

While a third wrote: “Keane has a weird obsession with defending Ronaldo, anyone else does that he gives them heavy abuse.”

However, the Portugal international may struggle to find potential suitors, after managing only two goals in all competitions this season.