Cristiano Ronaldo has only scored three goals since the appointment of Ralf Rangnick, whose reign now spans 14 games at Manchester United.
Some have suggested the team were not providing Ronaldo with enough chances but since Rangnick’s appointment, no Premier League team has created more than United’s 160 (as per Opta).
It may just be that Ronaldo has lost his goalscoring spark. Against Watford, the forward missed a number of easy chances and the story was the same against Leeds United as he spurned a great opportunity laid on by Paul Pogba.
When he was signed by the club many fans hoped that age was just a number and, at 37, he would still be able to produce the goalscoring numbers that earned him five Ballons d’Or. Unfortunately, United are witnessing Ronaldo in decline.
In his last 30 games for Juventus he has scored 18 goals and registered two assists and in his first 30 since returning to United he has scored 15 and set up two, but it’s the distribution of the goals for United that is the most concerning factor.
As the focal point of the attack, United wouldn’t mind if these were spread out over multiple games, with the occasional brace, but Ronaldo’s goals are limited to 13 matches, meaning he has drawn 17 blanks.
United no longer have the elite goalscorer they expected upfront, showing their poor planning in this regard, but do they still have – to borrow Jurgen Klopp’s phrase – the ‘mentality monster’.
United have only lost one game in normal time under Rangnick but many have credited this to the relative easy run he has had to start his tenure, playing all of the newly promoted sides, Burnley, Southampton and Newcastle among others.
But now with a run of Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur – plus a return leg fixture in the Champion League against Atletico Madrid – the Reds will need to be on top form to have any chance of making the top four this season.
Some fans think the team’s chances of Champions League qualification are in peril because Arsenal and Spurs have both got games in hand. There are surely plenty of twists and turns to come but, to stand any chance, United need Ronaldo to stand up when faced with the sort of opponents against whom he has traditionally thrived.
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These are the moments that Ronaldo was bought for. The hope is that he can find his goalscoring boots again at least to allow United some chance of hearing the Champions League music again next season.
If not, and this is if he stays, Ronaldo will be facing Europa League football with United for the first time in his career. That should be enough motivation against City.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.