When Manchester United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo in last summer’s transfer window, some described it as a gift. Initially, it seemed that way, with the Portugal international proceeding to score 24 times in all competitions last season. However, with the player now fighting under Erik ten Hag, things aren’t exactly going to plan…
Ronaldo looked set for Manchester City in the summer 2021 transfer window, with the striker looking to leave Juventus for a return to the Premier League at that time.
But with United fearing the possibility of the 37-year-old moving to the Etihad Stadium and tarnishing his Old Trafford legacy, they opted to sign the superstar instead.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer approved a deal and interventions from Bruno Fernandes, Patrice Evra and Bruno Fernandes ensured that the prodigal son came home.
Ronaldo was good for United last season, a shining light in a dismal campaign that had problems for both Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.
But since Ten Hag’s appointment as manager, the Portuguese international has struggled to rediscover his usual scoring touch.
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His performances this season have been flat, with the speed of his younger days gone. In the modern world, that poses problems.
Ten Hag was keen to massage Ronaldo’s ego in the summer, at a time when the player was looking to leave, and the Dutchman made it clear that he wanted his number 7 to stay.
However, that decision backfired spectacularly and there is now a genuine feeling that the Red Devils would be better off without their prized asset.
Ronaldo started the 4-0 loss to Brentford in August, but was lucky to stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes as his side were beaten and run over.
He also managed to get the go-ahead for a 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad soon after, drawing a blank as his side slumped to defeat.
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Ronaldo looked subdued during the international break, struggling as Portugal beat the Czech Republic and lost to Spain.
And although Ronaldo has started three games for United since then, he has failed to score a single one during that time.
Overall this season, two goals in 14 appearances is proof that his powers are waning.
And Ten Hag, unlike Solskjaer and other Ronaldo managers of years past, is in no mood to let the 37-year-old get away with it.
The duo are believed to have a professional relationship with each other.
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But there was something telling about Ronaldo’s play against Newcastle on Sunday, with the United star furious after being sent off with his team chasing a winner.
A player so often made for key moments in football, the former Juventus and Real Madrid man felt insulted.
However, Ten Hag clearly felt that Marcus Rashford, who wasted a late chance to win the game, was the best route to all three points.
The Glazers felt that when they sanctioned Ronaldo’s Hollywood homecoming just over a year ago, it would be the ticket to the trophies.
Although these are early days, it is clear that Ten Hag does not share his opinion.
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The next step for United is a crucial clash with Tottenham on Wednesday.
Victory would increase their chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League, something they were unable to do last time out.
But defeat would be another hammer blow in a year in which they’ve already taken plenty of hits.
Whether Ronaldo starts the match at Old Trafford remains to be seen.
However, if he finds himself on the bench, it will only embolden claims that Ronaldo’s spell of playing with Ten Hag won’t last long.
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