The effect of Cristiano Ronaldo on Manchester United’s performances this season has been a matter of debate among fans and pundits this season.
The legendary goalscorer caused ruptures earlier this week by storming off during his side’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Ronaldo’s frustrations over his lack of playing time appeared to be the cause of his outburst, an outburst which has done his chances of playing regularly under Erik ten Hag no favours.
Prior to the incident, pundits such as Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand had leapt to the defence of their former teammate, insisting Ten Hag ought to be playing him.
But the statistics certainly seem to back the manager’s decision.
It would appear that Manchester United, as a whole, play far better without Cristiano Ronaldo than with him.
The following graphic from The Times puts this into sharp focus:
The point differential – 2.3 without versus 0.5 with – shows that United enjoy more success with the likes of Marcus Rashford up top.
But digging deeper, we begin to see why that might be the case.
The team on the whole run 10km more per match without Ronaldo in the side. That on its own could be written off, but its effects are clear.
As backed up by the eye test, United are a better pressing unit when they don’t have a 37-year-old centre forward (shock horror).
They win possession more frequently – all over the pitch.
Winning possession in the attacking third five times per game is a decent return, but it is one that is halved by Ronaldo’s presence on the pitch.
In times gone by, Ronaldo could point to his goal return as justification for his inclusion, even if it meant his lack of defensive output placed a burden on his teammates.
With no Premier League goals this season, that is difficult to do.
But with zero goals scored by Manchester United while Ronaldo has been on the pitch this season, it isn’t just difficult – it is impossible.
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