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How Are Manchester United Going To Solve Their Cristiano Ronaldo Problem?

How Are Manchester United Going To Solve Their Cristiano Ronaldo Problem?
By Eoin Harrington
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Another game and another 1-1 draw for Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and co. were once again left frustrated on Saturday as they threw away a 1-0 lead for the third game in a row to play out yet another draw against Southampton.

The most frustrating element for Ralf Rangnick's side will surely be the fact that United did not actually play badly. In fact, they played quite well. But the end product is not there and, naturally, all eyes will turn to the centrepiece of United's attack, Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo's shocking form is major cause for concern at Manchester United

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick spoke earlier this week about the need for the club to sign another striker in the summer. He suggested that the imminent departure of Edinson Cavani was the reason for needing to invest up front.

If you were to watch the current United team, though, you'd be forgiven for thinking Rangnick was not a tad worried about the form of his "star man" Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese striker returned to much fanfare in the summer and, initially, it seemed to be working out. Four goals in his first three games had Sky Sports and the football media industry going loco for Ronaldo, and it appeared as though the unexpected return of an ageing star might just click for United.

But the story has taken quite a drastic turn in the past two months. Ronaldo has scored one goal from open play since Rangnick arrived as manager - and that was a goal against Burnley he would have had to try hard to miss.

He missed a penalty against Middlesbrough in last week's FA Cup defeat that would have sent the team through to the fifth round. He is currently in the middle of his worst goalless drought in over a decade.



But stats only tell half the story. The debate rages on about whether the slowing 37-year-old Ronaldo fits in the system Manchester United are trying to play. Simply put, that debate is irrelevant at the moment - Ronaldo is not good enough on form to start in this team.


He once again looked lost in Saturday's draw with Southampton, and his failure to convert after rounding goalkeeper Fraser Forster in the first-half was a jarring miss. The one thing Ronaldo has been known for since his move to playing up front is his ruthless finishing. Even that has deserted him in recent weeks.

Ronaldo no longer has the pace that defined his game during his first spell in Manchester 13 years ago, but his movement in the box and finishing ability were what defined his spells at Real Madrid and Juventus. Even those traits have deserted him in the past month or so. United are now carrying Ronaldo, rather than vice versa.


His mentality and approach to the game also appears to have hit the floor. He has stormed off the pitch at full-time on multiple occasions this season - most recently at Burnley on Tuesday - and he threw a strop on the sideline after being substituted early on against Brentford.

That's not to say any of this was entirely unexpected. Ronaldo is hardly renowned for his modesty, and it was always likely that there would come a flashpoint if he was left out of a starting XI. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick, and Ralf Rangnick have all rested Ronaldo during their tenures in charge of United this season, and each time the decision has been met with questions about its implications for Ronaldo's morale.

Ronaldo is 37. Managers should not have to pander to him. The young talent at Manchester United are being stifled by his poor form and, with Marcus Rashford coming back to form, it may be time to rotate and give Rashford a go down the middle.


Bruno Fernandes has functioned well as a false nine at times for this United side. Edinson Cavani, though seemingly incapable of playing more than one game a week, works tirelessly on the pitch and remains a firm fan favourite.

The issue is the storm it seems to create every time the Portuguese superstar is left out of the team. Leaving him in the starting XI can make it easier for the manager to avoid criticism, regardless of how he is performing.

All of this is not to say that Ronaldo is finished at United. After all, he is the club's top scorer in all competitions this season, and has popped up with crucial winners against Villarreal, Atalanta, and Arsenal this season.

But, when it comes to his current form, it's becoming increasingly difficult to argue the case for Cristiano Ronaldo to start week-in-week-out for Manchester United.

SEE ALSO: Eight Storylines To Look Out For In The Champions League Last 16

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