Manchester United must heed Juventus warning as Cristiano Ronaldo problems persist

It’s fair to say that the honeymoon period from Cristiano Ronaldo’s emotional return to Old Trafford has long since worn off.

He was dropped for the 1-1 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor in favor of Edinson Cavani and the decision seemed vindicated for a period. Manchester United took a 1-0 lead through Paul Pogba, but the home side leveled things up with a goal from Jay Rodriguez minutes into the restart.

Ronaldo came on for around 22 minutes of the game but was unable to turn the single point into three, and it now leaves United a point behind West Ham in the battle for fourth place, but with a game in hand.

Following the bright start to his second stint in Manchester in which the goals flowed, things have gradually deteriorated.

Many United fans overlooked Ronaldo’s shortcomings for the mere fact that he was back at the club after 12 years away. The emotion, not to mention the nature of the return, had initially overridden any concerns about how he would impact the side’s overall play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

After the flurry of goals in the beginning – 10 goals in all competitions in the first two months – the well has started to run dry.

Ronaldo has scored two goals in the last two months and has yet to open his account this calendar year.

And at this stage of his career, if Ronaldo isn’t scoring goals, he really isn’t offering much else.

This was evident for much of his time at Juventus and, ultimately, the paradox of his time in Serie A. Ronaldo scored goals, lots of them, but his presence at Juve made the team regress with each passing season.

They became more predictable and having Ronaldo denied any cohesion or fluidity that coaches Max Allegri, Maurizio Sarri and then Andrea Pirlo tried to instill.

He was Juve’s biggest goal threat, but also their biggest problem.

Cristiano Ronaldo pictured during Manchester United's trip to Burnley
Is history repeating itself for Ronaldo?

The same issues are now being played out at Old Trafford. According to the analytical website FBRefRonaldo is among the worst in the Premier League for pressures (pressing the opposition) per 90 minutes, with 6.8.

By comparison, Cavani executes 13.7 per 90 minutes. However, it must be said that the Uruguayan’s stats would arguably be higher had he started more games this season.

Ronaldo’s lack of pressing has hurt United this season. The top teams at the highest level, both in England and Europe, all press effectively. This isn’t possible for United with Ronaldo in the starting XI.

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Juve found this out during his three seasons in Turin, and now United fans are beginning to see that bringing Ronaldo back to the club, outside of the immense commercial value, isn’t necessarily beneficial to success on the pitch.

But give him the ball and he will score goals. And that’s the irony with modern-day Ronaldo: a scorer of goals in an era where merely scoring goals is no longer enough.

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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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