Cristiano Ronaldo is a victim of Manchester United’s poor planning

Cristiano Ronaldo’s demoralising day was epitomised by a free-kick, not by a shot against the post, an offside goal, or an attempt that touched Anthony Elanga on the goal line.

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Ronaldo walked away from a free kick 25 yards from goal in the 38th minute. In September, Rio Ferdinand quipped that Ronaldo should not be given first dibs on set-pieces. When Alex Telles lined up to swing a harmless shot wide against Watford, Ronaldo did not even raise an eyebrow.

Ronaldo appeared to be broken when the final beep sounded. The tunnel at Old Trafford is at the south-west corner, rather than the halfway line as it is at most stadiums, thus there was no speedy escape. Ronaldo hesitated, perhaps unsure of what he had gotten himself into. Perhaps you’re wondering what happened to him.

With his head bowed, he shamefully applauded the Stretford End. That amounted to a confession of guilt. On another afternoon where United sprayed blanks, Ronaldo was a missed penalty away from completing the entire profligate set.

Before the game, a colleague in the press room joked that Ronaldo looks like a recluse Bruce Wayne from The Dark Knight Rises. Batman is eventually demolished. Ronaldo seemed to be in a bad way.

This season, Cristiano Ronaldo has been caught offside 25 times in the Premier League, more than any other player. He was caught ahead of the last man nine times in his five domestic starts in February.

If you look at the list of most flagged players, you’ll notice a pattern: Ronaldo, Raul Jimenez, Chris Wood, Jamie Vardy, Callum Wilson, and Michail Antonio are all in their 30s and in desperate need of a boost. Ivan Toney and Jarrod Bowen, both 25, have spent the majority of their football careers in the NFL.

With 25 offsides, Ronaldo is at the top of the list. Filippo Inzaghi was born offside, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, and Ronaldo’s passport could have the same birthplace.

Ronaldo is cursing the skies as much as he was cursing the heavens when he was a youngster, according to those who had the opportunity of seeing him during his formative years at United. Despite the fact that Ronaldo hit the woodwork with uncanny regularity in his first two seasons, you knew the youngster would come good, very good.

Nobody expects the game’s all-time leading scorer to score 40 or 50 goals in his golden years. Despite playing in the toughest league in the world, Ronaldo scored 14 goals in his first 20 games back at United, all of which were in the Premier League and Champions League. Almost all of them were able to secure points.

There’s the fact that he’s only played one game in the last ten, which coincides with a hip injury that forced him to miss two games in January and Edinson Cavani crying off as soon as the weather became cold. In February, United played seven games in 22 days, and Cavani was available for one of them.

Cavani’s song should be modified to ‘first name’s Edinson and it’s another injury’ because United fans have reduced their serenading of him. Cavani did not play in the second half of February, as he did last year, and he was left out of the matchday squad after all four rounds of international fixtures this season.

Cavani’s commitment is unquestionable as he crosses the white line. Preventing a goal kick has never gone viral before he charged after the ball with the game knotted at 1-1 versus Villarreal. Cavani appears to be about as committed to attending United games off the field as absentee landlord Joel Glazer.

The circumstances surrounding Ronaldo’s re-signing were disturbing, but it’s a good thing United did. In his second season, Cavani has missed 22 of a possible 37 games while scoring twice. United cannot claim not to have been warned, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became unhappy with Cavani’s proclivity for giving second opinions on his fitness, and Ralf Rangnick has made it clear that Cavani’s decision is definitive.

Ronaldo is a victim of poor planning, as is often the case. United has two goal scorers, one of whom is a fair-weather player, with a combined age of 72. Cavani’s purple patch last year began in April and lasted in May, which is no coincidence.

The goal-scoring problem is very serious. Bruno Fernandes has been probably more wasteful this month than in previous months. His misses against Watford were worse than Ronaldo’s, and Fernandes was also to blame for Middlesbrough’s FA Cup expulsion.

Aside from the Latinos, Marcus Rashford, who was never a centre forward, has 12 club goals in 14 months, which is roughly how long he has been out of form. Anthony Elanga has shown promise, but he is still inexperienced. No rational matchgoer ever regrets Anthony Martial’s absence at Old Trafford.

United’s ineffectiveness stems from a mental as well as a technological problem. As Fernandes tensed up and Ronaldo edged past of the final man at the Scoreboard End on Saturday, the dominant halves of Boro, Burnley, and Southampton must have played on his mind.

United’s only four-goal hauls this season have come against Leeds’ tactical anarchists and Newcastle’s sinking ship, according to Steve Bruce. Rangnick has scored twice in four of the team’s 17 games.

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Clement Bright Ansah


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