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Which manager can get the best out of Ronaldo?

Cristiano Ronaldo
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This has been a rollercoaster of a season so far for Manchester United fans, and the turbulence shows no sign of being over any time soon.

Fans checking out the United odds on the best new betting sites for 2022 will find that the bookmakers have struggled to get a handle on how to rate the team, both under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now under Ralf Rangnick, the interim boss who took over when Solskjaer was fired.

So far, Rangnick hasn’t been able to produce a sustained improvement in the club’s fortunes and there are stories of discontent in the United dressing room that don’t give much cause for optimism. But if United are to recover, it is likely that Cristiano Ronaldo will be the catalyst.

Ronaldo himself had been the subject of some unwanted speculation in recent weeks. He had been linked with possible moves to Barcelona or PSG, rumours that were based largely on the fact that United are at serious risk of finishing in the top four this season and so missing out on Champions League football for the 2022/23 campaign.

Some media outlets have even suggested that Ronaldo would not support Rangnick if he was appointed as the permanent coach. Given the way that performances have stagnated under the German coach after a promising start, it seems less rather than more likely at this stage that he will be given the job on a permanent basis. But in any case that isn’t Ronaldo’s style, and he is unlikely to abandon a club that means so much to him simply to pursue Champions League football in the short term.

Fortunately for United fans, recent comments by a journalist who knows the player indicate that Ronaldo will likely be at the club for the next manager’s arrival. But who will that manager be?

According to the betting markets, the former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, ironically the current manager of PSG, with whom Ronaldo has been linked, is the favourite to land the job when Rangnick’s interim period as caretaker comes to a close in the summer. The former Spurs manager leads the odds race, ahead of Rangnick and the current Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers.

Still, there are doubts about whether Pochettino can get the best out of the legendary forward. It has been rumoured that Ronaldo has not relished the high-energy pressing game that Rangnick demands, and indeed his stats and performances would certainly suggest that he isn’t a good fit for that style of play.

The problem is that Pochettino’s game plan is just as intense and requires a high level of energy and a willingness to sacrifice individual flair for the team. With many if not most players, that is a sensible approach, but when you have an all-time great like Ronaldo in your team, wouldn’t it make more sense to build your strategy around him and let his talent and experience guide the play?

Zinedine Zidane, who managed Ronaldo at Real Madrid, has a track record of getting the most out of him, not least because Ronaldo was allowed to express his full talent, and because of Zidane’s idiosyncratic approach to management, including his efforts to make training pleasurable rather than a chore. That way of operating could well be more effective than Pochettino’s regimented approach.

Erik Ten Hag of Ajax would be another option. While his style of play is as energetic as Rangnick’s, it is based more around possession than the German’s and so is closer to a Pep Guardiola approach, which seems instinctively to be more suited to Ronaldo.

Besides Ten Hag and Zidane, Roberto Mancini has also been mentioned as a possible United boss and his style of coaching would also likely give Ronaldo the space to display his full talent, but Mancini is unlikely to leave his position as Italian coach ahead of the World Cup in November.

Whichever way United go this summer, the club faces a crucial decision that they have to get right if they want to get the best out of Ronaldo and their talented squad.