Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo has made no secret of his desire to depart Old Trafford in favour of the Champions League and a genuine shot at silverware elsewhere.
Along with his long-time facilitator Jorge Mendes, the 37-year-old desperately tried to engineer an exit away from the Theatre of Dreams throughout the summer transfer window, to no success.
A bevvy of Europe’s elite clubs, including Bayern Munich, Napoli, Inter Milan and Chelsea, turned down his advances, sometimes in public utterances that undoubtedly bruised the ego of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Ronaldo’s efforts to find alternate employers meant he did not travel with the team for pre-season. This translated to the goalscorer losing his place in the team to Anthony Martial, who impressed manager Erik Ten Hag while on tour.
He has featured on several occasions this season for the Red Devils. Still, so far, he has endured a nightmare campaign that has only reinforced what many supporters across the fanbase already knew but did not want to admit to themselves – Ronaldo must leave and make space for the team to flourish in his absence.
Here are three reasons why the hierarchy must facilitate Ronaldo’s decamping to another side for the team’s sake.
He is a liability that significantly hinders the team and the way the manager wants to play
For many people, it is unfathomable that one of the greatest players of his generation, who has a trophy cabinet that other players can only dream of, be labelled a liability.
However, that’s precisely what Ronaldo has become through no fault of his own. Time and age catch up with everyone.
The ex-Real Madrid man is a player in steep decline overseeing the sunset of his illustrious and silverware-laden career. He no longer boasts the explosive speed and bags of trickery that at one point enabled him to leave defenders on the floor and unable to stop him.
His fox-like instinctive movement inside the box that compensated for his loss of rapid speed and which allowed him to elongate his career well beyond his early thirties seems to have diminished into a distant memory. Even the player’s aerial ability that helped to cement his status as the greatest goalscorer of all time is no more.
Instead, whenever Ronaldo plays, he is constantly outdone by the opposition, who have no problem stamping their authority on his once-unplayable persona. More often than not, the serial Champions League winner spends his time on the floor after being bundled down by a defender.
He constantly loses the ball and cedes possession in the middle of attacking phases, which then puts the team on the back foot, susceptible to quick transitions and counter-attacks. Due to his wastefulness and, it must be said, that of his Portuguese compatriot Bruno Fernandes, the team becomes incapacitated in its attempts to sustain continuous pressure and create waves of attacks.
Ronaldo lacks the ability to link up the forward line and bring his teammates into play – an aspect of the game that Martial excels at to near-perfect precision. Any time he has the ball near goal, the striker’s first option is always to look to get a shot out, sometimes at the expense of an easier alternative, like passing to someone else in a far better position.
Defensively, Ronaldo offers next to nothing. Admittedly, even in his youth, he was never much of a presser, but the game’s evolution demands that even the number nine participates in shutting out the opposition. At 37, Ronaldo cannot be expected to press at the same intensity as some of the younger talismans in the league who relish the task, such as Gabriel Jesus, Erling Haaland, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
The no. 7 constantly fails to track back, leaving his colleagues with large spaces to defend and overloads in dangerous areas. Admittedly, he is not the only United attacker guilty of this. Jadon Sancho and Antony, for instance, neglected their tracking back obligations against Manchester City in the derby day defeat that saw United concede six goals, four alone coming in the opening 45 minutes.
In recent games, Ronaldo’s clinical nature and finishing have also come into question. The most memorable incident that comes to mind is in the first leg Europa League clash against Omonia. He had numerous clear-cut opportunities to bury proceedings but failed with each one. One chance saw the Portuguese captain in front of a gaping goal after Diogo Dalot unselfishly teed him up, but he could only hit the post from close range.
This has become a running theme in Ronaldo’s game, although he did well to score against Everton to reach an incredible 700 club career goals milestone.
At times, one is left wondering what exactly Ronaldo brings to the team whenever he comes on. His valuable contributions are few and far between these days, and he is evidently holding the team back. Ten Hag has shown a willingness to drop Ronaldo in favour of Martial and even Rashford, who are more suited to his football philosophy and tactical nous.
The Dutch boss’ hands are, however, tied. The Frenchman is rarely fit and is highly unreliable. Rashford, on the other hand, thrives more as a winger than a natural striker. Charlie McNeill and Joe Hugill are the only other natural goalscorers at Old Trafford. Still, the two youngsters, however talented, are not ready for the big time and still must be carefully nurtured.
Club chiefs must look towards January to procure a potent striker that will come in place of Ronaldo and fit into the manager’s plans.
The constant media and pundit revisionism is tiring and comes at a cost of the team’s performance
A player of Ronaldo’s standing is never far from the headlines, and most fans are accustomed to it.
However, the constant prejudiced and biased coverage of him from sections of the media is jarring. A majority of his former teammates and current TV pundits, who could be his friends, have become notorious for their constant uncalled-for revisionism of the player.
Some of these, including Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, and others, enjoy talking about Ronaldo’s past exploits with United in his first stint and with Real Madrid, using these achievements as a springboard to discount his detrimental effect on the current team.
While they remind viewers of the kind of player Ronaldo once was, they must also acknowledge the player he is right now and what merit, if any, he brings to the team. One may argue that the media mostly resorts to this tactic to avoid any obvious conversation about the player’s decline.
For example, Ferdinand questioned Ten Hag’s decision to substitute Ronaldo during the Newcastle game after the weekend, arguing that if the Rashford chance at the end fell to the 37-year-old, he would have probably found the back of the net.
It’s easy to speak in hindsight after the fact. Would Ronaldo even have been in Rashford’s position at that given moment? There’s no guarantee this would have been the case. This is not the first time the legendary United defender has come to the fore in an overeagerness to defend Ronaldo. A few weeks ago, Sky Sports commentator and pundit Jamie Carragher accused him of being a Ronaldo fanatic in a passionate Twitter rant.
Keane ridiculously named Ronaldo as one of the top three best players in the league at the moment, alongside Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne. The likes of Harry Kane, Ivan Toney and others would have something to say about that!
The revisionism is boring and distracts from what is important and the utmost priority – the improvement of the team and its advancement.
The uncertainty over his future is only likely to cause further unrest
The Telegraph’s Jason Burt revealed in an exclusive that Ronaldo is still looking for a way to leave United in January.
Uncertainty over his future, especially for a player who holds so much sway in the dressing room, does not bode well for the team’s dynamics, chemistry and togetherness.
Various reports have spelt out how the Portugal international is not every player’s cup of tea behind the scenes. This, I should point out, is not a Ronaldo problem, and if he stands against the mediocrity and complacency that pervades some of United’s stars, he is a net positive in the eyes of the Old Trafford faithful.
These opinions are not intended to stain Ronaldo’s acclaimed and distinguished resume. Every player, even one superhuman like Ronaldo, has their breaking point and moment of unfolding, and it seems that he is beyond his. He may have some use as an impact substitute and able deputy, but knowing him and his temperament, this is a situation he is unlikely to accept.
It is crucial that his future is resolved and a definitive determination be made on his next move. This would provide some much-needed clarity on his situation and would allow everyone to know where they stand.It is in this respect surely best for everyone if he leaves in January. This will be a positive development for United, not only in the short term but also further down the road.
- Get all the match build-up, articles, news, puzzles, nostalgia and humour
- Online football content like you’ve never seen before
- No ads, no clickbait, no fake news – just 100% pure United
- Instantly delivered to your device with easy and secure online ordering
- Click Preview to see more or buy for just £1.25/$1.50
- Limited time offer: SAVE £10 on a season pass – use discount code SEASON35 at checkout.