Rio Ferdinand has denied that Manchester United is a better team without Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar scored a stunning hat-trick to lead United to a crucial victory over Tottenham Hotspur at home on Saturday evening.
That treble, Ronaldo’s 59th of his illustrious career, brought him to 807 career goals across his club and international tenure – more than any other player in football history, according to FIFA.
Ronaldo, 37, had missed United’s dismal Manchester derby defeat at City the week before, with accusations that Ralf Rangnick’s side may have posed a bigger attacking threat without him.
Prior to Saturday’s outstanding individual performance in aiding Spurs’ defeat, the veteran attacker had scored just nine Premier League goals in 23 games.
However, Ronaldo’s former Manchester United colleague Ferdinand has dismissed the notion that the Red Devils would be a better club without the Portuguese star in their starting lineup.
Speaking before United’s second leg Champions League Round of 16 matches against Atletico Madrid, Ferdinand emphasized how the team only made it out of the group stages because of Ronaldo’s game-changing genius.
Ronaldo, who has won the title five times, including with Ferdinand in 2008, scored six goals in five group stage appearances to catapult United to first place.
After scoring in an opening-day loss to Young Boys, Ronaldo scored late winners at Villarreal and Atalanta before scoring twice in a tie away in Italy and twice in a two-goal triumph in Spain.
“Manchester United would not be in the Champions League without Cristiano Ronaldo,” Ferdinand told Mirror Football.
“Are Manchester United a better team without him? That is not something I can agree with.
“If he wasn’t playing for Manchester United, they would have been eliminated in the group stage.”
“A player of his skill and quality, who is as resolute as he is, who has demonstrated over the years and this season that he can make a difference.”
“Manchester United are not a team that can say, ‘OK, we’re too excellent to have someone like that in our team.'”
Following Anthony Martial’s loan move to Sevilla in January, Manchester United’s other natural attackers in the first-team roster are Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, and Anthony Elanga.
Ronaldo’s trifecta on Saturday brought his goal tally to 18 in 31 outings since his return to Old Trafford, as he looks for his 16th consecutive season with at least 20 goals.
The Portuguese superstar will aim to inflict more damage on Atletico Madrid in Tuesday’s Old Trafford clash, having defeated Diego Simeone’s side with Real Madrid in the 2014 and 2016 finals, as well as defeating them with a hat-trick for Juventus in 2019.