The Portuguese has had a difficult season on his return to the Red Devils.
Fans of Manchester United cannot forget the evening of August 27, 2021. Their biggest star, who is now a global icon- Cristiano Ronaldo was making a comeback to Old Trafford. He first joined the Red Devils in 2003 under Sir Alex Ferguson and left for Real Madrid in 2009, after scoring 118 goals in 292 appearances for them. He also won his first Champions League and three Premier League titles with them.
The hype of Ronaldo was such that as per reports, the tickets for his debut game against Newcastle United were sold on the black market for more than £2500. He did not disappoint scoring two goals in that match. He had a solid start to the season, but things have changed since then.
There have been multiple reasons for the failure of his performances at the club:
5. A decision taken in haste?
Before his arrival at Manchester United, there were strong reports of Ronaldo’s transfer to their local rivals Manchester City. After Sergio Aguero’s departure to Barcelona, City were in need of a prolific striker. But, as per reports, Manchester United could not tolerate the fact that their superstar was about to sign for their rivals.
They had plenty of attacking options in Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James, and Jadon Sancho. They were in need of a defensive midfielder at that time, but instead, a move for Cristiano was made.
4. Instability at club
Manchester United have had plenty of problems to deal with this season which has affected their star striker. There have been multiple injury problems to the likes of experienced match-winners such as Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane. Cristiano Ronaldo does well with a striker alongside him. But, frequent injury problems along with the fact that Cavani is 36 have affected his performances.
Uncertainty over the futures of crucial players such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial, slump in the form of Marcus Rashford, and difficulty in adapting back to the Premier League for Jadon Sancho has added more responsibility on his shoulders. The recent Mason Greenwood controversy too has impacted the forward since Greenwood was a regular in the team.
3. Unhappiness among teammates
Ronaldo’s arrival brought hope to the club. Young players were excited to have a player of such stature among them. But, recent reports have suggested that these players have had problems approaching Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, approaching the likes of Cavani has been easier, despite language barriers. Their lack of comfort with a player who is a regular starter disrupts team chemistry, which in turn affects Ronaldo’s performances, adding to his frustration.
After missing a penalty against Aston Villa, Bruno Fernandes was taken off penalty duties, while Edinson Cavani had to give away his No. 7 jersey in the middle of the season to accommodate the Portuguese. Such acts affect the atmosphere in the dressing room.
2. Ronaldo’s style of play
He was expected to repeat what he had done for Real Madrid and Juventus in the past. But, since his arrival, Cristiano Ronaldo has taken fewer shots than what he had taken for both those clubs. Before the Southampton game on 12th February 2022, he had 4.01 shots per 90 minutes, lesser than 5.35 at Juventus and between 5.5-7 at Real Madrid.
He has also been seen drifting away from the central position. He is considered as the focal point by his teammates and his absence in and around the box makes it difficult to score goals. Though Ronaldo is still one of the fittest players around, with age, his speed and trickery have gone down. Therefore, we can see him attempting more crosses than shooting for goals.
1. Change of managers
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was keen on landing Ronaldo. A call to Ed Woodward who accelerated this move by talking to the Glazer family led to his arrival. Ronaldo had a decent run during Solskjaer’s tenure, scoring nine goals and providing two assists in 14 games before the Norwegian got sacked. Since Ralf Rangnick’s arrival as the manager, Ronaldo’s form has dipped. He has managed only five goals and one assist in 14 appearances under the German.
Under Solskjaer the pressing game was not strong and the team usually believed in counter-attacking football. The squad was also heavily reliant on Ronaldo’s brilliance and the game revolved around him. Whereas under Rangnick, the theory is completely different. The German believes in the popular counter-pressing system. Ronaldo is also expected to track back and defend, which he has never done. His substitution in the Brentford game also appears to have strained his relationship with the current manager.