Man United FC

Cristiano Ronaldo’s warning after bailing out Man Utd teammates shows how much has changed

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is still trying to figure out how to get the most out of Cristiano Ronaldo in what will almost certainly be his final season at Old Trafford.

As soon as Cristiano Ronaldo completed his mythical return to Manchester United, the scene was prepared for him.

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Ronaldo spent the following decade proving his credentials after leaving Old Trafford as the world’s top player, winning everything on offer with Real Madrid and Juventus. So when United managed to fight off Manchester City’s interest in re-signing him, there was cause for celebration.


The 37-year-old was soon identified as the missing component of a United side that had finished as the ‘best of the rest the previous season. His second debut, a home win over Newcastle in September 2021, hinted that might be the case as well.


After a few months, despite his aspirations, his optimism and nostalgia had been replaced by doubts about his contribution to the broader setup. After crushing defeats to Leicester City and Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the verge of being fired heading into the Champions League meeting with Atalanta in Bergamo.


Ronaldo had already saved the day against the Italians, scoring the game-winning goal in a thrilling 3-2 comeback triumph at Old Trafford. And he repeated the technique in a game in which United needed to avoid defeat in order to preserve control of their fate.


Atalanta took the lead through Josip Illicit, only for Ronaldo to equalize before halftime. Duvan Zapata then put the hosts back in front with a goal that appeared to be the game-winner. With the clock winding down and Solskjaer looking down the barrel of the sack, Mr. Reliable delivered once more, sending in a stunning volley in added time to secure them a critical point.


Following the final whistle, the United players flocked to Ronaldo, recognizing that he had nearly single-handedly saved their blushes. To emphasize his position in the squad at the time, he delivered a warning to his comrades, telling them they needed to change in order to survive.


“We still have work to do. We have a variety of players and systems. We must adjust, but this will take time. “We have time to improve,” he told the media after the game.


Solskjaer further emphasized that it was virtually a one-man rescue mission: “Cristiano is just unbelievable.” That’s exactly what he does. If there’s one chance you want to take at the last second, and it’s a difficult one, it’s him. He keeps his focus on the ball, and his volleying technique is superb. That’s how football works.”


Those events at The Gewiss Stadium, however, proved to be a false dawn for not only Solskjaer but for United in general. A hammering by Watford less than three weeks later would bring an end to his Red Devil’s term in charge, with the rot has set in.


United advanced to the European knockout stages, but Ronaldo was unable to make an impact as they were defeated by Atletico Madrid in the last 16. The Portuguese legend would finish his first season back with the club as their top scorer, but if the message wasn’t already on the wall, it was surely being drafted.


The results of all of his goals indicated that United was a less effective team when it was constructed around the abilities – although enormous qualities – of the seasoned Ronaldo.


Almost a year after those feats in Northern Italy, the picture could not be more dissimilar. Ronaldo, who was formerly the main man, is now a supporting act in Erik ten Hag’s newly constructed group.


Under the Dutchman, he has frequently found himself on the bench, and as his most recent indiscretion demonstrated, he is no longer the recipient of any special treatment. After preaching to his coworkers to adapt and develop, he is now being challenged to do the same.


Ten Hag has been courageous in holding United’s most visible and well-paid player out of the starting lineup until his teammates achieve what he requires. Ten Hag stated last month, “We have certain standards from players, what we want in various spots on the pitch.”


“I want to get the most out of him; he’s in better shape now, which I’m thrilled about, so he can contribute more to the squad, which I’m confident he will.” It was the case at first [lack of fitness], but as history has shown, no one can miss a pre-season.”


According to reports, the dressing room, which was once at the mercy of its star, now believes they are better suited with Marcus Rashford leading the way. In football, a year is a lifetime.

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