Skip to main content

What Exactly Is Going Wrong with Cristiano Ronaldo?

The Portuguese legend is far from his best. Is the end near?

Cristiano Ronaldo is in the conversation of the best footballers in history. There is no doubt about that. The Portuguese star has triumphed everywhere, scoring goals at will. Although no one doubts his quality, we are witnessing a scenario that no one imagined could happen.

Manchester United are performing better without his presence on the pitch, and a lot has to do with Erik ten Hag's system.

The root cause

The relationship between Ronaldo and Ten Hag did not start off on the right foot. It is known that the Portuguese wanted to leave the club in order to compete once again in his own tournament, the Champions League, where he is the all-time top scorer.

Ronaldo took a long vacation at the start of the preseason, missing team commitments in Thailand and Australia during the summer. From that moment on, the relationship between the striker and the manager became strained.

The final straw came in a friendly match against Rayo Vallecano, where Ronaldo finally made his Manchester United pre-season debut. The Portuguese was substituted at halftime, and Ten Hag's decision is understandable, the striker had time off and had to recover little by little. Ronaldo left the stadium instead of watching the rest of the game with his teammates on the bench.

It is obvious that Ten Hag, who is taking on the difficult challenge of bringing Manchester United back to life, expected more cooperation from the most senior player in the squad, a legend at the club and in the world.

So far, not good

Although Ronaldo has played in all of the Red Devils' games so far, he has only started one of them, in that fateful 4-0 defeat against lowly Brentford.

After the resounding defeat, Ten Hag made a number of changes in tactics for the following matches, and good results started to come.

The Dutch manager is betting on a trio of attackers with freshness and youth, with the ability to press high in the opponent's half, look for long balls and leave opposing defenders in their way.

Recently, Cristiano Ronaldo has become a pure "9", a center forward in every sense of the word. Although he still has an enviable technique and understands the game in a great way, United's new system is not made for him.

With the attacking electricity of Rashford, Sancho, Antony, Elanga and Martial, Ten Hag's team has been able to beat big rivals such as Liverpool and Arsenal. These good results have felt like a new red renaissance.

The truth is that Ronaldo, who scored 24 goals in 39 games across all competitions last season, has been far from his best. Considering the reinforcements United signed for this season, a better performance was expected from the Portuguese, who so far has not been able to score or assist in seven games (Premier League + Europa League), in a 297' drought without being directly involved in a goal.

We should never write Cristiano Ronaldo off as dead, he is one of the best of all time and at 37 he is still making a difference, although the clock is ticking, and his team could be getting more and more comfortable without him, establishing himself as a substitute for the Reds. Ronaldo a bench player?, it's up to him to make the most of his minutes and prove he deserves to be a starter.