Are Manchester United better off without Cristiano Ronaldo?

Cristiano Ronaldo has been the subject of numerous transfer speculations in the last few weeks, leading to many questions and near-answers. The 37-year-old has expressed his desire to move away from Old Trafford just less than 12 months from returning. If reports are to be believed, his agent Jorge Mendes has been hawking the five-time Ballon d’Or winner left, right and center.

The past few weeks have been nothing short of a monumental embarrassment for the Premier League giants, coupled with the never unending drama from the Frenkie De Jong deal. The club’s last need was their talisman seeking a forceful exit from the club. What makes the situation even worse is that the 37-year-old has had over 2 months to ponder his decision to leave the club. Why wait till the start of the pre-season campaign?

Reports have also emerged that the Portuguese superstar has been turned down by all the clubs that his super-agent have offered him up to. The likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea and PSG, are some of the notable mentions.

All through the 2021/2022 season, the Portuguese superstar carried his side through the moments and motions. His late goals against Atalanta and Villarreal in the Champions league underlined his immense worth to the team. His hatricks against Norwich and Tottenham Hotspur proved that he was far from finished.

We can go on with the incredible moments the legendary icon provided last season, but some subtle questions prop up: are United better off without the Portuguese superstar? Without him in the team, is there a chance for more success at Old Trafford? Where will they be without him? These and more are the burgeoning questions that this recent development has raised.

His departure will aid United’s Pressing ambition

The appointment of Erik ten Hag has been greeted with much appreciation and hope for a better tomorrow at Manchester United. Before his appointment, the club installed Ralf Ragnick to be some sort of forerunner to the next manager and in his first press conference, one word filtered in our heads, PRESSING. The club appointed him to build the fitness of the players and encourage more attacking displays. Though that didn’t play out, it was whispered in the media rounds that Cristiano Ronaldo would be unsuitable to this method.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is on the wrong side of 30, and even with his alien training drills and fitness programs, age is catching up on him.

 To his credit, he was by far the most committed and best player at the club last season, but stats also have it that he was the poorest presser of all the strikers in the Premier League last season. If United are to become the pressing monsters that they so desire, as stats suggest, having Ronaldo will not help.

Last week, a source reported that Ralf Ragnick requested that the club sell him as far back as January, as he saw the veteran forward unsuitable to his ideologies.

One of the first actions the German took was to install Anthony Elanga into the team, even with the fact that he was far inferior to Marcus Rashford. 

The reason is not far-fetched, he was one of the best pressers in the team, and Rangnick quickly recognized that.

However, if Ten Hag is to tow this line, he would certainly not need Ronaldo or have to find a way to include him in the team.

United’s Pre-season performances say a lot

Pre-season games are a mere formality, but they are undeniable tools to monitor the progress of teams. Liverpool and Manchester United clashed in a marquee friendly in Bangkok, and many expected a continuation of the embarrassment the Red Devils suffered last season.

The 2021/2022 campaign was a season of very few positives, and even though United finished with a Europa League spot, it was a total meltdown. Klopp’s men demolished United 9-0 over two legs and completely desecrated the sacred theatre called Old Trafford.

However, in Bangkok, United looked reborn, energetic and motivated. They played like a team and pursued every ball, with Ten Hag modules gradually sinking in their heads. Let us not also forget that these are the same players that played like a dissatisfied bunch seeking permission to run or even press. Though we must be careful to overplay the fixture, the team certainly looks much better than last season.

Though Ronaldo is arguably the best striker in football history, his presence in the team looks like a tornado in a rather freshwater habitat. No doubt that there is quality in the United’s team, the confidence levels were at an all-time low last season, and it is no coincidence that it happened when the Portuguese icon stepped in.

The team has not stopped impressing and growing from strength to strength. The likes of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial look better and sharper, and this is down to the renewed belief that Ten Hag has breathed in the team. Though Ronaldo’s return might encourage that, it looks likelier to truncate it.

An interesting stat adds more volume

We have acknowledged the ruthlessness and brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo, which is down to his supreme goal-scoring abilities and predatory movements in the box, which are second to none. In a conventional scenario, a prolific striker is supposed to increase the volume of goals scored by a team because he will either score them himself or give room for it.

However, that cannot be said about Cristiano Ronaldo; stats reveal that the Portuguese icon’s presence has rather decreased the volume of goals in his last two club adventures.

His return to Old Trafford saw him fully install himself as the club’s main offensive instrument, scoring 24 goals over the course of the season.

However, as a stat suggests, United were more ruthless and prolific in front of goal prior to his return. The team scored 73 goals in the 2020/21 season, but they only managed to score 57 with the veteran striker.

This trend is not restricted to Manchester United. Before his signing for Juventus, the club had been more prolific and had scored 86 goals. However, his joining saw the team score 70, 76 and 77 in his three years at the club.

The prolific striker is a valuable commercial asset to any club with him, but given that no top club seems to want him right now, it indicates that he could be a minor liability at the moment.

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