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Is Cristiano Ronaldo the problem or the solution for Manchester United?

Red Devils would be much worse off minus their goalscoring machine

Cristiano Ronaldo has netted ten goals 13 appearances for Manchester United this season
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After Cristiano Ronaldo helped to send Manchester United top of the Premier League with a scintillating brace in a 4-1 win over Newcastle in mid-September, it felt like something special was unfolding at Old Trafford.

Nearly three months later, though, the fairytale beginning has evolved into a gruesome horror show.

Lacking clear direction and under the stewardship of inexperienced interim boss Michael Carrick, Manchester United are struggling to keep pace with the Premier League top four and are out to 125-1 to win the title.

One saving grace has been their qualification for the Champions League knockout phase, thanks largely to the six goals in the group stage from Ronaldo, but there are increasing numbers among the United faithful blaming the Portuguese icon for the club's recent implosion.

So, is Ronaldo the problem or the solution for United this season?

Those who are sceptical of the 36-year-old's contributions are quick to point out that when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was dismissed on Sunday, it meant this is the fourth season running that Ronaldo has been at a club where the manager has departed, suggesting the player has a habit of interfering with team dynamics.

In 2018-19, Max Allegri requested that the club move Ronaldo on after a season but their refusal to do so prompted the Italian to leave and his replacement Maurizio Sarri did not exactly see eye-to-eye with the former Real Madrid star either.

Andrea Pirlo also struggled with Ronaldo in the team but that could have come down to his inexperience in the dugout.

In each of those three completed seasons, however, Ronaldo scored 32 per cent, 37 per cent and 33 per cent of Juve's goals in all competitions and the bottom line is he was signed by United to put the ball in the back of the net.

Based on that criterion, he has excelled. 

Ronaldo has scored ten times in 13 matches in all competitions this season, making him United's leading goalscorer and raising the question - where would they be without him?

He bailed the club out in home and away fixtures with Atalanta and against Villarreal, dragging them single-handedly through their Champions League group. 

Former club Juve, meanwhile, have hardly improved since he departed.

But others argue those goals are not worth the way he has forced the tactical system to change.

Ronaldo is not known for his pressing and his average of 5.14 pressures per 90 minutes is the lowest of any forward in the league this term. But even if he were to become a master-presser, the dire midfield pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred would have to improve for that approach to work anyway.

Bruno Fernandes has also declined since Ronaldo arrived, managing no shots on target in his last seven league games, but the midfielder has previously impressed behind the five-time Ballon d'Or winner for Portugal and he just looks short of confidence.

Simply put, there are far bigger problems to attend to at United than having goalscoring machine Ronaldo in their ranks. 

Their midfield is devoid of strength, Harry Maguire has been shambolic and they have long lacked a consistent game plan. 

Blame Ronaldo if you like, but you are missing the bigger picture.


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Ronaldo has scored ten times in 13 matches in all competitions this season, making him United's leading goalscorer
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