Cristiano Ronaldo has somehow climbed towards the top of the Premier League golden boot standings despite playing in one of the worst performing Manchester United squads in decades.
The veteran Portuguese striker scored once again against Chelsea on Thursday night, taking his tally for the season to 17 in the league, and 23 overall.
With a new manager inbound for next season in the form of Erik Ten Hag, questions have been raised about Ronaldo's place at the club. Ten Hag's energetic style, combined with understandable reluctance about building a side around a 37-year-old, have led to suggestions that the club could get rid of their top scorer in the summer.
Ronaldo's former teammate Gary Neville spoke on the matter on his podcast for Sky Sports on Thursday - and suggested that Ronaldo himself may make the call to leave.
Gary Neville: Cristiano Ronaldo has 'earned' right to choose to leave United
Speculation continues to swirl about Erik Ten Hag's approach to Cristiano Ronaldo. Undoubtedly one of the greatest players of his generation, Ronaldo is nonetheless nearing the end of his career, and questions also flurry about whether he will fit into Ten Hag's set up.
Gary Neville believes that the question of Ronaldo staying at Old Trafford does not revolve solely around Ten Hag's attitude. Neville pointed out that Ronaldo himself may not see a place in the new era at the club, and may choose to leave of his own volition:
It will be really interesting to see what happens with Erik Ten Hag at the end of the season. We've seen Erik Ten Hag's stats, we know he likes to play an aggressive press, tries to win the ball high up the pitch - that isn't Cristiano's strong point.
But, he will want a goalscorer. He will want someone who can put the ball in the back of the net 20-25 times, and he's got that man.
Chelsea play a slightly different way to Liverpool and Manchester City - can Manchester United use Cristiano as a bridge and Cristiano use Manchester United as a bridge as well to get them through Erik Ten Hag's first season? It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
I think Cristiano will be thinking: 'where am I going to play my football next season?' not 'am I going to finish?' I think he's going to play on - it's just where his home is going to be in this latter part of his career.
He'll accept that he doesn't have some of the qualities that he had when he was younger, but can still thrive on the qualities that he has still has.
There's an element here of Cristiano assessing whether he fits into Erik Ten Hag's team next year - it won't just be one way traffic. Both of them have to make that decision. Ronaldo has earned that.
Ronaldo once again saved United's blushes on Thursday night. In the midst of another dismal performance against Chelsea, United's veterans - Ronaldo, Nemanja Matic, and Juan Mata - were the sole players in red to put in good performances.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who else.
Listen to the crowd 𝗥𝗢𝗔𝗥 as the striker fires Utd level - 𝗚𝗔𝗠𝗘 𝗢𝗡 at Old Trafford! 🔊 pic.twitter.com/TCh7lCkecr
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 28, 2022
Matic provided the assist for Ronaldo's equaliser in a 1-1 draw. The goal brought Ronaldo to 17 for the season in the league, and follows his 100th Premier League goal on Saturday against Arsenal.
Neville praised Ronaldo's performance in a poor United side, but emphasised the issues around the Portuguese striker.
He keeps going. He came to score goals, and he is scoring goals. He must be incredibly frustrated.
It's not what he wanted at the end of his career, it's not what he wanted on his return to Manchester United, yet he still continues his persistence, his determination to continue to contribute and score goals is absolutely incredible.
How many goals would he have scored in this Chelsea team tonight or in this City team? He's still scored plenty of goals for United in a team that isn't co-ordinated, hasn't really got a plan.
I mentioned in the first half about the attitude of the players - I wasn't really talking about him. He's proven that over a long period of time, even at his age - what he's doing, the shape of his body, the recovery from the tragedy only last week.
The question of where Cristiano Ronaldo will play next season is likely to drag on until the very end of the transfer window. With a new manager inbound, anything could happen with the Manchester United forward's future.
If Gary Neville is to be believed, the frustrations of playing in such an underperforming side all season may well push Ronaldo to the exit door.