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Cristiano Ronaldo backed to shrug off Manchester United saga at World Cup and lead Portugal charge

Portugal coach Fernando Santos is confident his team can put the enduring soap opera around Cristiano Ronaldo to one side at the World Cup.

The Portuguese kick off their Group H campaign against Ghana this afternoon, following a build-up to the tournament that has been dominated by Ronaldo.

Following his explosive interview in which he criticised Manchester United, it was announced on Tuesday that Ronaldo had agreed to cancel his contract at Old Trafford.

Santos was visibly frustrated yesterday when his pre-match press conference was dominated by questions about Ronaldo. But the 68-year-old insists his side is focused on Ghana.

“It hasn’t even been discussed,” said Santos. “The conversation hasn’t come up at any moment. If the players are talking about that in their rooms alone, I can’t say. They can do what they want, but the important thing is that they are absolutely focused and realistic about the challenges they are facing.”

Eyes on the prize: Cristiano Ronaldo is out to win a second major tournament with Portugal (AP)

Those claims were echoed by Bruno Fernandes, a former team-mate of Ronaldo at United. “The World Cup means a lot for Cristiano Ronaldo,” said the midfielder. “I am sure he is focused on this competition. We usually create a lot of noise around things that are going on, but I am sure Cristiano is focused.

“You know how important playing for Portugal is for him and for all of us. It is the dream of every player.”

Since winning Euro 2016, Portugal stalled in the last 16 at the World Cup in 2018 and Euro 2020, and they needed two play-off wins to reach Qatar.