Cristiano Ronaldo might have changed Manchester United’s summer transfer priority – Richard Fay

Whoever ends up finishing fourth in the Premier League this season will achieve the feat by stumbling over the finishing line in comical fashion, rather than racing through the ribbon.

Manchester United could already have the position as good as secured, despite their woeful start to the season, though performances in recent weeks have highlighted just why they are on their third manager of the campaign.

The weekend draw with Watford pretty much summed it all up.

Every time this United show signs of turning a corner, they end up going around in circles, quickly transforming optimism into anguish as more points are inconceivably dropped.

Creating chances has not been an issue at all under interim boss Ralf Rangnick and in recent matches against Middlesbrough, Burnley, Southampton and Watford, they managed to have an impressive xG of 10.99.

But, instead of netting nearly 11 goals and achieving four comfortable wins, United somehow only managed to score three times, notching three draws and an embarrassing FA Cup exit to Boro on penalties.

When Cristiano Ronaldo stated he had ‘unfinished business’ to take care of upon re-signing last summer, he did not mean adding the Europa League or Conference League to his trophy cabinet. However, they both look like rather realistic possibilities, given their own wastefulness in front of the goal.

At the start of the season, Ronaldo wasn’t such a worry since he was grabbing goals, a worthy exchange for the lack of cohesion and selfishness he brought to the United frontline.

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But as the season has dragged on the goals have dried up and now the 37-year-old is really starting to show his age.

Not only has Ronaldo been wasteful in front of goal, but he looks to have lost his confidence too — which is remarkable for a man who has trademarked his own goal celebration and still poses topless on social media whenever the opportunity arises.

No player has been caught offside as many times as Ronaldo in the Premier League this season. The Portuguese has been penalized by linesmen 25 times this season, six times more than any other player in the division. It spoke volumes that he did not even celebrate when he looked to have netted on Saturday afternoon, such was the inevitability of the flag raising soon after.

United already had plans to sign a new striker in the summer transfer window, but the identity of that target may have to change after the latest poor performance from Ronaldo.

In an ideal world, United could have signed a raw attacking talent at the end of the season, a promising player who would be given a year to learn from Ronaldo on a daily basis before taking the reigns next year when they’ve already had time to settle.

However, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner now looking a little lost, the importance of a new attacking signing has only increased in importance, particularly with Edinson Cavani set to leave at the end of the season and the uncertainty regarding the Mason Greenwood situation.

If performances continue to struggle and United miss out on Champions League qualification, then Ronaldo could look to leave the club early too, given his personal demands of wanting to be involved in the top competitions in world football.

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That could leave United, in effect, without three strikers at the end of the season, further amplifying the need for someone who can come in and do a job right away.

Rangnick has recommended the club re-attempt to sign Erling Haaland after he rejected United in favor of Borussia Dortmund in 2019, though Manchester City and Real Madrid remain the frontrunners to sign the Norwegian, whose €75million release clause becomes active in the summer.

United’s interim manager has already made clear the need for a younger forward at the end of the season, though the club accepts that the midfield is the ‘biggest problem’ in their squad.

Against the best sides in Europe, it is in midfield where United often come unstuck, but given their recent struggles against smaller sides have been down to poor finishing, there is now an argument to suggest a new striker should actually be the priority, given it is costing them more points.

Even if Ronaldo rediscovers his scoring boots, United will need to sign a striker who is first-team ready at the end of the season. If he looks to have lost them for good, then that striker already needs to be world-class too.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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