Ralf Rangnick might have found training a little easier to organize at Carrington now the size of the Manchester United squad has been suitably trimmed.
Amad, Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek have all left on loan this month and have been carrying a squad of nearly 30 senior players, United are now down to around 25 and in line with most of their rivals.
Elite managers would rather work with a smaller squad than a large one, making it easier to get ideas across and keep everyone engaged, but at United this season there’s been too many players at training who know that whatever happens there are chances of involvement at the weekend were slim to non-existent. That doesn’t create a good environment.
Now everyone involved in the United squad knows they are close to the squad and between now and the end of the season Rangnick might even need to find the odd creative solution to plug gaps in his squad.
United have 16 crucial Premier League games remaining and are still in the FA Cup and Champions League. There’s a lot still to play for. Avoid injuries and suspensions and United’s squad remains large enough to cope, but there’s always an element of the unknown.
The departure of Amad and Martial and the unavailability of Mason Greenwood could leave United a little short out wide. The emergence of Anthony Elanga offers Rangnick three senior wingers, alongside Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, while Jesse Lingard can also offer in wide areas.
But there is another option for a wide player that could yet add to United’s goal threat as well. Cristiano Ronaldo has been almost exclusively a striker at United and he tends to do his best work in the penalty area these days, but there’s no doubt he still has the fitness to play as a winger, especially coming off the left as an inside forward.
Two seasons ago Ronaldo played 28 games on the left wing for Juventus and scored 22 goals. Cutting onto his stronger foot from him he can still be a major goal threat from that position and he could even be a greater threat from crosses. Even at 36 Ronaldo is a major threat in the air, but that hasn’t always been seen to best effect this season. If he was to attack crosses coming in off the left, maybe even targeting the full-back instead of the center back, it could be profitable for United.
Playing Ronaldo on the wing would mean a start in attack for Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has struggled from the start lately but did play a decisive role in the dramatic winner against West Ham almost two weeks ago. His celebration of him once again showed why fans love his infectious enthusiasm of him.
Fitting Ronaldo and Cavani in the same team has worked on occasion this season, notably when they scored three times against Tottenham and Burnley in what were cohesive attacking performances, although it’s not yet been tried with Ronaldo on the wing.
It’s unlikely to be a regular solution, either. Ronaldo and Cavani are United’s only central striking options at the moment so playing them together every week would be a risk.
But there’s no reason to think Ronaldo couldn’t roll back the years and be effective out wide at times between now and the end of the season, offering United a slightly different dynamic to their attack. It could even be a selection forced on Rangnick at some point if United don’t get lucky with injuries between now and the end of May.