Manchester United’s reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t gone as either side would have hoped.
Since Ralf Rangnick’s appointment, the striker has scored just two free goals with another coming from the spot and in the league overall he has failed to be the driving force to win United the league that many pundits claimed it would be. His enforced absence from the starting XI which lost 4-1 at Manchester City offered a hint of what life would be like without the Portuguese.
United’s crushing defeat on derby day left Ralf Rangnick’s side 22 points behind leaders City and the gap between them and City and Liverpool is huge.
Some have pointed to the obvious factor in Ronaldo’s age, at 37 he is no longer someone with the same youthful exuberance he once possessed and although a decline in his physical abilities seems very likely, he there are ways to mitigate this.
Many fans have suggested that Ronaldo has used his goalscoring ability to become more of a poacher in the box and his deployment as a lone number nine in a 4-3-3 under Rangnick seems to lend to this idea. of the success that Edinson Cavani found in this role last season.
But when Ronaldo plays, you see his reluctance to take on that role.
He drifts into wide open spaces and wants to pick up the ball outside the box, instead of moving into space and looking to get to the end of crosses and passes into the box from Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Elanga.
But his former coach Maurizio Sarri, who managed the player at Juventus, may have provided the answer. In an interview with Sky Italia he said: “Cristiano has scored more Serie A goals in his season with me than anyone else.
“He was ready to play centre-forward in a few games when we had an emergency situation, but he didn’t like the idea of doing it regularly.
“In these situations you end up questioning the player’s certainties. Ronaldo has scored 35-40 goals a season from this wider position, so for him it was an almost absurd request. It’s understandable for the way he plays.”
This creates a problem for both the team and the manager. Firstly, it’s another player United have signed who favors play on the left flank and perhaps more pertinently it raises questions about whether Ronaldo still has the ability to occupy that left wing. more physical Premier League role compared to when he was first here.
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If Ronaldo also wants to play on the wing, that poses a serious problem in the forward position. Cavani has hardly been available this season and that leaves only an out-of-form Marcus Rashford to fill the striker position (who, ironically, is also Bruno Fernandes played as a false nine in Ronaldo’s absence at City and other creative solutions would include playing Anthony Elanga in the center, but it’s glaringly obvious that United lack natural options to fill an increasingly worrying void at the top of the team.
It’s the latest in a long line of issues that underscore the importance of United’s summer rebuild and also how difficult it will be for United to secure a top-four place ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham at the end. of the season.
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