Cristiano Ronaldo: On February 8, with Manchester United and relegation-threatened Burnley tied at 1-1, the Red Devils brought on their 37-year-old reserve striker for one more try at scoring.
If the aforementioned striker wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner who has seldom come off the bench in his career, that line wouldn’t ordinarily raise an eyebrow.
After a strong start to the season, Ronaldo still leads his team in league goals with eight, but that encounter on February 8 was already the third time in the 2021-22 season that he had begun among the replacements and come on before the final whistle.
In each of his three substitute appearances, the game was tied at 1-1, with Manchester United having blown a lead prior to Ronaldo’s entry. He failed to turn the tide all three times.
Those three league cameos have now surpassed his three complete seasons with Juventus in terms of substitute appearances. More noticeably, he made zero substitute appearances in Real Madrid’s final five La Liga seasons. To find a league season in which Ronaldo came off the bench three times or more, you have to go back to the 2012-13 season.
The substitutes’ bench and Cristiano Ronaldo aren’t exactly buddies.
What is Cristiano Ronaldo’s problem?
Manchester United has been the subject of considerable criticism this season, with some other players probably deserving of far more. The buck, though, frequently stops with the Portuguese forward because of the name on the back of his jersey.
This season, Ronaldo has averaged 38.4 touches per match, the first time he has averaged less than 40 in a season since the data collection began in the 2015-16 season. That’s a considerable drop from his three seasons at Juventus, where he was a regular attacking presence, averaging 52.5, 56, and 47.8 touches per match.
In a team full of superstars, he wasn’t quite the center hub at Real Madrid, but he still averaged 43.5, 44, and 46.8 touches per game in his final three La Liga seasons before the statistics was cut off.
Every other offensive category has suffered as a result of fewer touches. His shots per 90 have dwindled; he was routinely in the 5.5-7.0 area until last season at Juventus, when he plummeted to 5.35, and now he’s at 4.01 with Manchester United.
His goal contributions are also dwindling, with his eight Premier League goals coming on an xG total of 10.51 in the league. Despite exhibiting symptoms of decline last season at Juventus, he still managed to score 29 goals on 29.84 xG.
Even his assist totals have decreased, with three assists on an anticipated assists (xA) of 1.76 this season. For a long time, he had been averaging between 4.0 and 6.0 xA assists every season.
All of these figures put Ronaldo on track to have one of his worst seasons in 2021-22. When compared to his xG, Ronaldo has never been a prolific finisher, preferring to be in fantastic situations to finish rather than scoring from ludicrous positions, but even the xG differential is concerning.
Ronaldo has already underperformed his xG by 2.51 goals, a career low, and is on course to nearly treble his previous lowest total of -2.32 in his first season at Juventus.
It all starts with his participation. Simply put, Ronaldo has not been able to consistently see the ball at Manchester United. Whether it’s due to his teammates or himself is a topic for another debate that would require considerably more detail — it’s almost certainly a combination of both — but suffice it to say that at 37 years old, the formerly otherworldly striker looks, well, human.
Is Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United’s problem?
Carlton Cole has labeled Cristiano Ronaldo a “part of the problem” at Manchester United, questioning the star’s “tenacity” after he missed a penalty in the FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough. Former West Ham striker Carlton Cole believes Cristiano Ronaldo is “part of the problem” at Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United a possibility?
Ralf Rangnick, the interim manager, has been open about his choice to bench Ronaldo. The German coach’s argument for Ronaldo’s most recent benching at Burnley, only three days after his 37th birthday, alluded to Ronaldo’s incapacity to complete certain responsibilities that are more physically demanding.
Ronaldo is known for his fitness and preparedness, and he prides himself on doing all it takes to be in peak shape. He still believes he can compete with the best. He hasn’t taken well to being substituted, most recently on January 12 at Brentford.
Despite his best attempts, Ronaldo is in the midst of one of his worst goal-scoring droughts in the last decade, and after setting such a high standard throughout his career, every flaw is magnified:
Ronaldo was also guilty of missing a penalty kick, which contributed to Manchester United’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Middlesbrough.
While he remains mired in mediocrity at Old Trafford, Lionel Messi has turned around a sluggish start to his Paris Saint-Germain career, and his influence at PSG is only growing with each passing game.
So, for the time being, what precisely is Ronaldo’s position at Manchester United going forward? Edinson Cavani’s contributions have lacked flair and fruit, and Mason Greenwood is sidelined for the foreseeable future, so Ronaldo will most certainly remain the focal point for the remainder of the season.
Nonetheless, there is growing conjecture regarding Ronaldo’s future at the club beyond this season — he signed a two-year contract with the club last summer — and those suspicions will only deepen with each match in which he struggles or fails to deliver.
Whether he stays at Man United for another season or leaves after just one, it’s evident that the 37-year-old is no longer the success conduit he once was.
Is Ronaldo happy with Manchester United?
Cristiano Ronaldo has stated that he is “not happy” with Manchester United’s current Premier League performances before the New Year holidays. After being heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, Ronaldo re-joined United in a mega deal this summer.