Whichever way you cut it, even the fiercest critics will agree that Cristiano Ronaldo is still one of the best goalscorers in the world.
He proved that in the Champions League, single-handedly taking Manchester United into the knockout stages with stoppage-time winners against Villarreal and Atalanta – extending his record as the competition’s top scorer.
However, that form hasn’t translated to the Premier League, where things could start to get awkward if United fail to clinch a top four spot.
A summer of big investments saw Ronaldo earn £12.86m, joined by Jadon Sancho for £73m and Raphael Varane for £34m. Challenges in the Premier League and Champions League were expected, but again the top four seems to be the only objective.
Staff turnover is undoubtedly a distraction, and with Ronaldo now 37 and entering his final years, the next four months of his career could well end up being wasted.
That’s without drastic changes being made on the United side in order to get the most out of their returning hero, who despite the increased number of years still deserves the right to be a focal point. .
talkSPORT host Dean Saunders said Ronaldo was ‘playing with draws’ after a 1-1 draw with Burnley, naming Fred and Scott McTominay as two of the worst midfielders the Portuguese superstar will ever have play.
But despite a lack of quality elsewhere in Ralf Rangnick’s squad, it was recently Ronaldo who faced the chop, dropped from the starting XI for the draw at Turf Moor.
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Rangnick explained the decision, saying: “Today is going to take a lot of sprinting, chasing balls, a lot of fighting for second balls.
“That best fits Edinson Cavani’s profile, which is why he starts today.”
Cavani failed to make a difference against Burnley, giving way to Ronaldo in a draw that saw the Red Devils fall to Arsenal and West Ham in the race for Champions League football.
Not only was the result bad for United, but more importantly for Ronaldo himself, on his longest goalless streak in 12 years, the Portugal captain hasn’t found the net for five games.
Rangnick, whose philosophy of football relies heavily on intensity and pressing, was never going to be the right coach for Ronaldo, but the fact is that only a season ago there was nothing wrong with him. the superstar striker.
Ronaldo’s 2020/21 season saw him score 36 goals in 44 games for Juventus, beating Romelu Lukaku to the Serie A golden boot by scoring 29 times in the league.
United need goals from Ronaldo if they are to turn draws into wins, and they may have to look to former Ronaldo manager Andrea Pirlo for a lesson.
Slowing down in his late thirties, Ronaldo needs rhythm around him to function best, allowing him to spend more time in the opposition box.
He also needs a lack of selfishness, with Alvaro Morata and Aaron Ramsey both assisting Ronaldo four times apiece in the league last season.
United have the players to start Ronaldo, and they also have the perfect opportunity, against a Southampton side they beat 9-0 last time they faced at Old Trafford, and Saturday’s meeting at 12:30 p.m. will be live on talkSPORT.
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