Manchester United are in a weird place right now. No, not in the Premier League table. The Red Devils have a lot on their plate. They are embroiled in a battle for fourth place. A new manager is coming after the end of the season.
Also read: Why Manchester United’s stadium is called Old Trafford?
Though nothing has been confirmed, Erik ten Hag is the favourite to take up the job. Old Trafford is set to go for major redevelopment soon. Therefore, one can be forgiven for thinking the squad troubles are being overlooked.
A team of leading consultants have been appointed to begin work on creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 14, 2022
In all of this, there’s been one player who has been practically carrying the team. Cristiano Ronaldo is having a prolific season in a career filled with them. The hat-trick against Norwich took his tally across all competitions to 21 goals. Simply put, Ronaldo has to stay for the next season no matter who the manager is.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 21 goals in all competitions with Man United this season. 🇵🇹 #MUFC pic.twitter.com/IkHEjXIY6S
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 16, 2022
Despite all the talk surrounding how he does not fit the “style of play,” his importance in front of goal is unmatched. Therefore, United have to make sure that all parties work towards this.
Goals, goals, and more goals
The one guarantee with Cristiano Ronaldo is that the goals will always flow. Ronaldo’s scoring record in England and Spain speaks for itself. He netted 81 league goals for Juventus in three seasons. The versatility across leagues and countries has been astounding.
Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus:
🎽 134 Games
⚽ 101 Goals
🅰️ 22 Assists
🏆1× Coppa Italia
🥇Serie A MVP
🥇Team of the Year
🥇Serie A top scorer
🥇Serie A Footballer of the Year
Happy 37th Birthday, @Cristiano. 🐐🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/wL1bE6bKWj
— Max Statman (@emaxstatman) February 4, 2022
Moreover, his work ethic and determination to get better with age are world-famous. For instance, the hat-trick against Norwich took his career tally to 60. Exactly half of them have come after Ronaldo turned 30-years-old.
Therefore, it is no surprise that Ronaldo has continued doing the same with United. Needless to say, the 2021-22 season has been the hardest yet.
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The Red Devils are a bunch of average players sprinkled with a few superstars who have no clear identity of play. That is why the fact that Ronaldo has continued producing the goods stands out.
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Almost always shows up
In addition, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the player who lives for the big moments. He has proved it already in 2021-22 with some very important goals across competitions. Ronaldo’s ability to remain switched on throughout the full match has been a hallmark throughout his career.
Therefore, if his teammates can provide him with quality balls, Ronaldo can get away strikes.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 'worst season' 🙄
Via @erlingtxt pic.twitter.com/nssoKJAOxd
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) April 17, 2022
He averages 3.93 shots per 90 over the past year, putting him in the top 97 percentile of players across Europe. Ronaldo’s off-the-ball movement and know-how for finding spaces have been integral to his continued success.
Read also: Who is Kobbie Mainoo, the teenager dubbed the ‘next Paul Pogba?’
Therefore, even when he is not scoring, Ronaldo can pull the opposition defence towards him to create chances for teammates. There is indeed an overreliance on Ronaldo currently and with good reason.
Lack of alternatives
The options apart from Cristiano Ronaldo have been dismal. Marcus Rashford is going through the worst slump in his career. Anthony Martial has left on loan and could be leaving at the end of the season. Anthony Elanga has been bright in patches but still has a long way to go.
Cristiano Ronaldo 🇵🇹
⚽️ 14 goals
🅰️ 3 assists
Bruno Fernandes 🇵🇹
⚽️ 7 goals
🅰️ 10 assists#MUFC pic.twitter.com/7Qd1ywq4vI
— Stretford Paddock (@StretfordPaddck) January 26, 2022
Mason Greenwood will not be able to play again in all probability. Edinson Cavani has only had six starts. That has left Jadon Sancho looking the most dangerous alongside Ronaldo. Whenever Ronaldo has missed matches, United have looked toothless in front of goal. There is no central point of attack once Ronaldo is out of the team.
The imminent appointment of Erik ten Hag won't change Edinson Cavani's future at Man United. He's still expected to leave on a free transfer in June, with La Liga as possible next destination. 🔴 #MUFC
Jesse Lingard is also exploring and considering options on a free transfer. pic.twitter.com/8ixn5PeFtp
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 14, 2022
However, there is the ever-growing feeling that the board will spend heavily in the summer to support the new manager. No matter who comes and who gets brought in, Ronaldo has to be present for a multitude of reasons.
What happens in the summer?
A lot of things, presumably. The new manager will certainly want to bring in reinforcements. United’s lack of an astute defensive midfielder, right-winger and possibly a centre back have been glaring.
Moreover, a striker will be needed given the combined age of Cavani and Ronaldo being over 72-years-old. The Uruguayan will be leaving, alongside Nemanja Matic.
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There have also been talks of the new manager and even Erik ten Hag possibly selling Ronaldo. That will be a grave mistake. Ronaldo still has a lot to give and he will continue doing so.
Hannibal Mejbri has been one of the standout stars for the youth teams. He must become a regular under the new manager
There is no guarantee of how much the board is willing to spend after heavy investment in 2021. Ronaldo is a mentor and leader in the locker room so any young striker will be taken under his wing.
#mufc's main target is a striker next to Cristiano Ronaldo. United are also looking for a central midfielder, with a similar size and physique to Nemanja Matić #mulive [@Plettigoal]
— utdreport (@utdreport) April 11, 2022
In addition, United can also promote Alejandro Garnacho who is a noted superfan of Ronaldo. Therefore, the continued presence of the Portuguese legend till 2023 will benefit all parties.
The question of whether Cristiano Ronaldo should stay or go beyond 2021-22 will be a matter of debate for a long time. Only the incoming manager will be able to provide clarity. There is no doubt that Ronaldo will only stay if he remains a starter. Therefore, United have to be careful in how they handle this situation in fear of alienating one of the club’s all-time greats.