Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored his first goal of the season but the wantaway star’s new cameo role is HURTING both him and Manchester United… the legend’s stats are a shadow of the jaw-dropping numbers he has produced throughout his career
- Cristiano Ronaldo has had to contend with a bit-part role at United this season
- The Portuguese star, 37, told the club he wanted to leave in the summer
- Ronaldo has only started three games, including two in the Europa League
- Erik ten Hag has insisted Ronaldo is in his plans but he has struggled so far
There was relief for Cristiano Ronaldo after he broke his longest drought in 16 years by scoring his first goal of the season in Manchester United’s victory over Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.
But his strike from the penalty spot didn’t tell the full story as it was another underwhelming performance in what has been a frustrating campaign for the 37-year-old.
The Red Devils have undergone a transformation under Erik ten Hag this season – one which has largely not included the Portuguese superstar.
Cristiano Ronaldo has endured a frustrating season with the Portuguese superstar no longer the go-to player after forging one of the most legendary careers in football
Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season from the penalty spot against Sheriff Tiraspol
In eight appearances he has started just three games, only one of which is in the Premier League, and he is still yet to score from open play.
Ronaldo has forged a career on being the go-to man at whatever club he plays for, carving a legacy that ensures he will go down as one of the best the sport has ever seen.
Even with United’s disappointing campaign last year, his jaw-dropping numbers didn’t slow down. But this year they paint a different picture and are a shadow of the man who is just one goal shy of a career total of 700.
So far this season, he has had to accept a new reality, going from the player who couldn’t be dropped to now, where United fans have largely accepted his new cameo role.
It was no secret that Ronaldo wanted to leave Old Trafford this summer after their failure to qualify for the Champions League, but the list of suitors was nowhere near as long as he or his agent Jorge Mendes would have hoped for.
In the end, no European giants held a strong interest in signing him, potentially down to his age as well as the huge financial package he would demand.
Ronaldo’s stats are a shadow of the jaw dropping numbers he used to produce
For United and Ronaldo, for things to turn as sour as they have was never the plan. When the five-time Ballon d’or winner returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in a blaze of glory, having spurned the advances of rivals Manchester City, the ambition was to drag United out of the mire.
United endured a poor season last time out under Ole Gunnar Solakjaer and then Ralf Rangnick, and despite Ronaldo scoring 24 goals in all competitions, there were still questions from former professionals and fans whether his signing was a positive one for the Red Devils.
The performances with his place on the bench this season, in which they have won four out of five games, proved they can perform even without a man who was their top scorer by a distance last season.
Arguments have been rampant over whether Ronaldo is now a detriment to United’s team, with some suggesting he slows them down and limits the efficiency of their attack.
By contrast, forward players including Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, as well as playmaker Bruno Fernandes, have flourished under Ten Hag and turned their form around after miserable campaigns in the 2021-22 season.
Ronaldo’s stats after six Premier League appearances this season don’t reflect well in comparison to his numbers from last campaign.
He averaged 80.5 minutes and 40.5 touches per game last year, which has dropped to 34.5 minutes and 18 touches per game, respectively, at the same stage this season.
While his shots on target and goals are understandably lower, his shots off-target are the same as last season (eight) – despite only playing half the amount that he did in the same period last year.
It shows that even when he is on the pitch he is not taking his chances and failing to find the sort of scoring form he displayed last season, which made him their most important player on the pitch.
Ronaldo has largely been wasteful in possession too, giving the ball away 28% of the time that he gets control of it.
Erik ten Hag has made a brave choice by dropping Ronaldo as a regular starter so far
Ronaldo has often had to contend with a place on the bench since the Dutchman came in
It also could be pointed out that Ronaldo is getting older and that could be why he is visibly struggling to make the impact he is so well known for making.
He could still have a role to play at United, even if it looks like, for now, that is best suited for him to come from the bench rather than the start.
However, being a mentor off the pitch and coming on as a substitute to assist his teammates in leadership and tactical play could still be key for United if they are to be successful this season.
Despite dropping Ronaldo and the player’s desires to leave the club, Ten Hag insists he’s still happy with the player.
After the victory on Thursday, the Dutchman said: ‘He’s (Ronaldo) totally committed to this project, totally committed to this team, totally involved, he also has connections that are coming around him and he is constructing connections so I’m happy with that.’
Ronaldo had hoped to leave the club during the summer window but couldn’t get a move away
Last season’s goal tally was impressive given United’s circumstances, but well down on what he has provided in the past.
It was his lowest total since scoring 23 for United during the 2006-07 season as a 22-year-old.
Since then, taking away last season, he has only scored less than 30 goals in all competitions in just one campaign – the 2018-19 year at Juventus where he netted 28.
Ronaldo is someone who lives off being the star man and it will be frustrating for him to be reduced to a bit-part player.
But Ten Hag might find it hard to adjust his system to suit Ronaldo, as great a player as he is, as it seemingly takes away the fluidity of his forward line.
Further discussion surrounding his future will likely heighten again closer to the January transfer window and Ronaldo could look elsewhere so that he can end his career on a high.
Ronaldo’s goals by season
2002-03 – 5
2003-04 – 6
2004-05 – 9
2005-06 – 12
2006-07 – 23
2007-08 – 42
2008-09 – 26
2009-10 – 33
2010-11 – 53
2011-12 – 60
2012-13 – 55
2013-14 – 51
2014-15 – 61
2015 -16 – 51
2016-17 – 42
2017-18 – 44
2018-19 – 28
2019-20 – 37
2020-21 – 36
2021-22 – 24
2022-23 – 1
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