Home » Cristiano Ronaldo departure could be exactly what Erik ten Hag needs

Cristiano Ronaldo departure could be exactly what Erik ten Hag needs

by Ayantan Chowdhury

A sense of optimism quickly gave way to despair on Saturday night for Manchester United fans. Confidence was slowly building with a deal for left-back Tyrell Malacia already secured and the club in touching distance of completing deals for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez. But everything seemed to come crashing down when reports emerged that top scorer and club legend Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave the club in search of Champions League football.

There were murmurs that his agent Jorge Mendes was sounding out potential suitors who could offer a return to the elite European competition. Chelsea and even Bayern Munich were sounded out but nothing concrete emerged from those reports with the Old Trafford outfit maintaining that their most valuable asset would remain in Manchester.

But now Ronaldo’s camp have tried to force the issue by first stating that the club was not matching the player’s ambition and now asking to leave if a suitable offer was on the table. The biggest drawback for any potential sale is the fact that the club do not have a replacement ready with United missing out on the likes of Julián Álvarez, Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez.

However, it is definitely not the end of the world for the English giants. New manager Erik ten Hag has made no secret of his desire to work with the Portuguese. But privately, he must be aware of the inherent difficulties this marriage of convenience brings. Knowing the kind of power and pull the five-time Champions League winner holds inside of Old Trafford, there was no chance he would risk a direct confrontation.

Ronaldo still has the scoring touch despite his advancing years. He was United’s top scorer last season with 24 strikes to his name. But the Dutchman prefers players who press from the front and can play as part of a team, bringing others into the equation.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is not that kind of player, something former interim manager Ralf Rangnick pointed out on numerous occasions.

There is no substitute for goals and die-hard fans were quick to point out on social media that the Red Devils would be in a relegation scrap if not for the Portugal skipper’s goals last term. Goals have never been the problem however.

What the 37-year-old brings in terms of goals, he often takes away in terms of disturbing a set pattern of play and overall shape. That was on display during his time time at Juventus as well when they went from Serie A champions to a disjointed team lacking any forward impetus.

United will survive as they have done before

In an Athletic article, author Philip Buckingham pertinently mentions that, “… Exist in a world of intangibles, however, and it is impossible to close off thoughts that it might also have been better.”

One only has to go back to the announcement of the prodigal son’s return to his former bastion as social media went into meltdown as the move seemed to herald United’s return to their rightful place at the top of the English pyramid.

A team flourishing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to have found the last piece of the puzzle in CR7 and the home match against Newcastle United back in September was a perfect advert for United’s No 7 and what he would do for the team.

But things unraveled soon after. Free-flowing counter-attacking football was what the Reds were known for under Solskjaer. But the ageing legs of their talisman did not allow that and despite impressive Champions League comebacks, the writing was on the wall for the club.

And under Rangnick, Ronaldo’s impetuous side came to the fore on numerous occasions. His presence can often be distracting for a team down in the dumps and it did not help matters when the team’s form slumped and everybody started blaming the other players for letting down their former Champions League winner.

There were reports of internal squabbles, power struggle inside the dressing room and the three-time Premier League winner is quick to show his disgust on the pitch when his teammates do not adhere to his high standards. In a team like Sir Alex Ferguson’s United and the all-conquering Real Madrid sides of the past, that can be seen as a driving force urging his teammates on.

But not in a side bereft of confidence and ideas like the team we all saw finish sixth.

The adventure might be ending after one season but the memories will remain forever. And as former Red Gary Neville pointed out on Twitter, “He left before but still loved the club.” With those words, fans should remain optimistic about the impending Ten Hag era and remember that the club has soldiered on before and will continue to do so.

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