Cristiano Ronaldo has scored over 800 career goals and he was brought back to Manchester United to find the back of the net.
So that, of course, was the most seismic story of the summer when Ronaldo returned to United on the deadline. Ronaldo, 36, returned to the club in the autumn of his career, but it was clear that his ability in front of goal had not diminished at Juventus. United knew Ronaldo was no longer the complete player he was in his last two seasons at Old Trafford, but they were not under that illusion.
They re-signed him for goals and to prevent him from playing for Manchester City at the Etihad. Ronaldo has already confirmed that decision ten times. The striker has 14 goals in 22 games this season, but that does not do the player justice.
Ronaldo is the man for the big apartment, and he thrives under pressure – he has definitely done so this season. When United have most needed a moment of brilliance, Ronaldo has taken care of it. His goals in injury time against Villarreal at Old Trafford and Atalanta at Bergamo are the reason United remain in the Champions League. Based on that alone, he has repaid United’s latest financial investment in him.
It has been laughable to see some experts suggest that Ronaldo is behind United’s miserable results this season. Instead, the question should be, where would they just be without him? It is likely that United would be out of the Champions League and perhaps further down than in seventh place in the Premier League table. It is said that Ronaldo and David de Gea have been the club’s best players during this period.
With a simplified view, Ronaldo’s role is to score goals, and De Geas is to prevent the opposition from scoring. Both players are performing well individually this season, but United are failing collectively as a team in every other area on the pitch.
There have been dark clouds hanging over Old Trafford for several months now and that has given Ronaldo an important new role.
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The 5-1 demolition of Leeds at home on the opening day of the season now looks set to be a world away and United are five points behind West Ham in fourth place, although they have two games left. United’s Premier League title challenge never really started and the mood in Carrington is low. The body language on the pitch has been worrying and United seem devoid of leaders.
These concerns can not be applied to Ronaldo, who came out and spoke as a club captain last week, speaking honestly when asked if the teams can succeed without the correct mentality. “Impossible. I think that’s the main point,” Ronaldo said.
“That’s why I say we have a long way to go to get better, because for me the most important thing is the mentality. To look at yourself and say I can do better. For you to be professional, help the team, have the right mentality, be self-taught and positive, “he added.
“I think all these details depend on you, not the coaches, the fans or the press.
“If you’re proud of yourself and you have a certain dignity, you have to do it a lot more.”
It was an answer in a way that players from the previous decade could have answered with. Ronaldo was not afraid to speak out in the midst of United’s failures this season, and his management has never been so badly needed at the club as right now.
United’s players looked mentally fragile when Aston Villa found a goal to make the match 2-1 at Villa Park on Saturday night and their equalizer looked inevitable from that moment on. Where were the leaders on the field? Responsibility must be taken.
Ronaldo returned to United to compete for major honors in his final years playing at the elite level.
Instead, he has been reduced to becoming the club’s sole leader when many should have already been in place.