First it was David Moyes’ fault for the mess Manchester United are in. Then, Paul Pogba was being blamed followed by Ole Gunner Solskjaer and countless others. Cristiano Ronaldo has also had his critics and now the Portuguese superstar has rocked the club by insisting that he wants to leave them this summer. I think United made a mistake in re-signing him, and the statistics don’t lie.
He is as fit as a fiddle but at the age of 37 the former Real Madrid and Juventus attacker knows he doesn’t have too much time remaining playing football at the highest level. He has the record for the most Champions League appearances (143) but will not be involved in the competition - where he is the all-time top scorer with 137 goals – next season after United failed to finish inside the Premier League’s top four. They have qualified for the Europa League and that is simply not good enough for a player of Ronaldo’s calibre.
He wants out but really, who can blame him? There seems no end to the malaise at the club. It is shambolically run and appears disorganised from top to bottom. United have still not made a signing since Erik ten Hag’s appointment. This does not bode well.
It was not this way when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager. He ensured the smooth-running of the club with his no-nonsense approach and how they could do with someone like him now to bring about some order. Owned by the Glazers, they have taken no responsibility for the state of the club and still believe throwing money into the market will fix everything. It won’t. The lack of strategic long term thinking has caused all the problems at Old Trafford. It just has not been the same ever since Ferguson stepped down. But oddly, it has got worse since Ronaldo returned.
He now wants to leave and naturally many fans will be disappointed whilst others will be pleased. Some genuinely feel he has been the main reason why the team has struggled. United have taken a massive step backwards since he returned for his second spell. The season before last, United finished second in the table in an extremely well-contested league campaign. But with him in the team they ended the campaign a very disappointing seventh. It just shows how far the club have fallen. Ronaldo’s arrival has not helped the team take the next step in the Premier League. It has done the opposite. His return last summer caused so much excitement among fans but the evidence suggests the side is better off without him.
United had to change their style of play to accommodate the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and it just has not worked. The 5-0 home thrashing by Liverpool is all the proof you need. That result still hurts but that is how far they have fallen. Ronaldo scored 450 goals for Real Madrid, a world-record 115 for Portugal, 101 for Juventus and although he was top scorer for United last season with 24, he just does not seem to fit in the team.
Now playing as a number 9, he is a far cry from that tricky winger first witnessed by English fans when he arrived from Sporting Lisbon. He hardly has the ball anymore - last season he was 16th for touches in the opposition area. And his pressing statistics are shocking. From a total of 429 players he ranked 384th for presses per 90 minutes. Clearly he is not at his best anymore. Edinson Cavani, who United have let go this summer, averaged 3.86 successful presses every 90 minutes in his first season and was in the top 5. The Uruguayan would run everything down. He would run after lost causes and this got his teammates and the crowd going. He had a positive effect. Ronaldo, on the other hand, has played up front and hardly done any work at all for the team. He only won possession three times in the opposition third last season. Cavani won five times as many. Ronaldo’s all-round game has stagnated over the past few years and this has hampered United.
In a bid to involve him more in the game, United became far more direct and tried to get the ball forward as early as possible, often bypassing the midfield. It was awful to watch. And then when he did get the ball they just hoped he would produce some magic… Football is not as simple as that.
Coach Ten Hag must bring in younger, hungrier players such as forward Antony from former club Ajax who has been linked with a move. He would prove to be a handful upfront and if they can get Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona, then United can have a very good season.
I legitimately believe Ronaldo is the greatest footballer of all time - but he has not made United a better team. They should not have re-signed their old talisman, and now that he wants to leave they should count their blessings.