At Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo is in the midst of an uncharacteristically poor run of form.
Some fans attribute this to a lack of service in offensive areas, while others argue that he is simply a 37-year-old approaching the moment in his career when his level would surely decline.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but the most important thing is that United find a way to get Ronaldo back to his best possible form with a number of important matches in both the Premier League and the Champions League coming up, and his former manager Zinedine Zidane’s previous advice on how he managed Ronaldo may have offered a potential solution.
Zidane coached Ronaldo at Real Madrid during the three-year period in which the Spanish club won the Champions League three times in a row, and after a La Liga match against Atletico Madrid in 2018, the French manager said: “Cristiano is Cristiano; he has always been this player, averaging 50 goals per season. There is no one else who can accomplish that, to be sure.
“Others, though, can score, as they have recently, and we must consider the advantages. It’s preferable if Cristiano could join us.
“It was just a simple situation (to rest him). We have a lot of games, that’s all. He needs to take a break now and again. He’s in desperate need of it these days. You can tell he’s getting better every day.”
Ronaldo has started most of United’s games this season and fans will recall his outburst when he was substituted against Brentford in the Premier League, which lasted even after Marcus Rashford had scored the team’s third goal.
With a crucial Champions League round-of-16 second-leg match against Atletico Madrid on the horizon, as well as games against Manchester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, there doesn’t appear to be a reasonable fixture to rest Ronaldo in the near future, but the lack of a midweek game this week may help give the forward a much-needed break after a fairly intense recent schedule.
It also doesn’t help that United currently has no other options to replace Ronaldo in his absence.
United have been left short of choices due to a combination of unanticipated circumstances, including Edinson Cavani’s reoccurring absence and Anthony Martial’s loan to Sevilla, which admittedly, with the benefit of hindsight now appears to be a more dumb move week on week.
Cavani’s return from injury can’t come soon enough to provide United another attacking option, but despite his quality, he can’t be counted on to be ready for numerous matches in a succession.
Rangnick would be a bold man to remove Ronaldo from his starting XI any time soon, but rotating him in and out of the team for the benefit of the overall image may be required.
United haven’t taken Zidane’s views seriously, and while the Frenchman benefited from having Ronaldo in his prime, the point remains applicable now. United has been guilty of failing to properly manage the week-to-week routine of a player who does not have the youthful enthusiasm on his side this time around in the Premier League.
United’s chances of finishing in the top four and winning the Champions League could hinge on a choice that would enrage Ronaldo even more than his untimely departure from Brentford.