Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled for game-time this season often having to settle for Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United substitute bench.
Anthony Martial has been United’s number nine at times this season but he has struggled to hit form and in truth has never been a hugely consistent goalscorer in his time at Old Trafford.
With United now experiencing injury troubles Ronaldo could get his chance and the team could benefit greatly from an in-form Ronaldo after a rather average start to the Premier League season for a big club.
In Paddy Power’s Premier League bets, United are offered at a price of 22/1 to be Premier League winners, showing that the Red Devils’ start to the season was not the sign of likely title winners. In reality, a successful campaign is a huge longshot this season. It’s massively ironic that a team that employs one of the greatest players of all time in Ronaldo is unlikely to win a title with him on the bench.
In addition, United’s pursuit for a top-four finish is sure to present a fierce battle too; in Paddy Power’s Premier League tips, they are currently priced at odds of 6/5 to secure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, with the entirety of the ‘big six’ preferred to claim a top four spot ahead of them.
Ten Hag’s currently preferred system consists of two wide creative players with a number nine in the centre that runs in behind and needs to be prolific in front of goal. Ronaldo, in the latter stages of his career, still fits that profile. Admittedly, he perhaps doesn’t have the pace and agility that he had to take on players in his prime but his technical ability has not diminished at all.
It is not just ability that the Portuguese icon brings to the pitch either, he is a natural leader seen especially in Portugal’s 2016 European Championships triumph when he practically coached the team following his injury.
Ronaldo is desperate to win at any cost and his mentality simply demands a higher quality from his teammates each and every time he steps onto the pitch. United’s attacking players, in particular, are inexperienced, and Ronaldo could help to take the burden of scoring all of the goals away from them.
Ronaldo returned to the United 11 for the European away trip to FC Sheriff on matchday two of the Europa League and Ten Hag was rewarded for his faith as the Portuguese forward got himself onto the scoresheet and inspired Manchester United to win.
This may be the turning point in which Ten Hag is forced to utilise Ronaldo not just due to injuries but due to his goalscoring ability and experience, he brings to the team. When Ronaldo starts for United it is much more likely that they will score, not only is his finishing ability in and around the box still at a world-class level, but his movement is incredible
With United’s creative wingers and midfielders in the form of Christian Eriksen for example, providing for one of football’s greatest attacking threats ever they should score goals in abundance and take the attacking impetus in games against weaker opposition. Ronaldo’s inclusion in United’s starting 11 should be a necessity from this point on.