Cristiano Ronaldo’s role in Man United in doubt after Ralf Rangnick’s arrival

In the immediate aftermath of the 1-1 match between Manchester United and Chelsea on Sunday, Cristiano Ronaldo headed straight for the Stamford Bridge tunnel, without even glancing over his shoulder at his teammates or fans chanting his name effusively.

The former Real Madrid and Juventus striker does not usually stay on the pitch once the final whistle has sounded; however, his abrupt departure from the Chelsea turf seemed to be faster than usual. It was certainly not a product of fatigue, considering he had only played for 26 minutes to replace United goal scorer Jadon Sancho in the second half.

Perhaps it was due to the realization that once interim manager Ralf Rangnick arrives to take over the reins of the Old Trafford team, he will likely have to get used to the kind of experience he endured at Chelsea Stadium on Sunday afternoon. .

Unless Rangnick completely changes his philosophy of the game, United’s tactics and training with their new coach will be very similar to those shown by interim manager Michael Carrick against Thomas Tuchel’s squad – stronger midfield strength, all at the same time. that forwards will be expected to press high energetically and form the front line of defense at all times. And that is where the problem for Cristiano lies. The Portuguese star is many things, including an incredible scorer; however, he does not have the energy, nor does he appear to have the appetite, to do the work Rangnick expects of his forwards and that Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes contributed in Sunday’s clash.

“I thought the forward trident – Marcus, Jadon and Bruno, did a great job of being aware of when to push and when to fold,” Carrick said after the game.

The big question Rangnick must answer quickly is whether he will be willing to adapt his philosophy to accommodate United’s star player, or whether Cristiano will now have to accept a different role (one he might not like) as an impact substitute.

Cristiano will never feel comfortable spending more time on the bench than on the field of play. Despite approaching his 37th birthday this coming February, he remains one of the most motivated and determined footballers in the sport. It is simply not in your nature to accept a secondary role; although Carrick indicated before the game against the current leaders of the Premier League table that Cristiano did not raise any protest for his surprise relegation.

“I had a good chat with Cristiano,” Carrick said. “And it was great.”

With United gearing up to face Arsenal this Thursday at Old Trafford, followed by another home match against Crystal Palace next Sunday, it is likely Cristiano’s absence from the starting XI against Chelsea was nothing more than a resource management strategy. , making sure the Portuguese international stays fresh for both engagements.

Having caused little or no impact in recent defeats against Liverpool and Manchester City, which contributed greatly to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s dismissal from coaching, it made sense to leave Cristiano off the payroll for the clash against the European champions. . It is not yet clear whether it was Carrick or Rangnick who made the decision, although Carrick insisted that Rangnick was not involved in the selection of players for the game against Chelsea. “That was not the case, no,” was Carrick’s reply.

Despite his almost zero impact on the commitments against Liverpool and City, Cristiano continues to be United’s leading scorer this season, and by a wide margin. With 10 goals in all competitions, he more than doubled Fernandes and Mason Greenwood, tied for second in the table with four goals each.

So planning without Cristiano for the future will be a gamble for Rangnick. True, his work rate is not what the German coach normally demands of his forwards; however, his goals have rescued United more than once this season. Therefore, if their participation decreases with the new coach, another player will have to raise their level significantly.

When United signed Cristiano last August from Juventus, there was always the danger that United would become excessively dependent on a player who has scored 799 goals for life with club and national team. His return to the club, after leaving United to play for Real Madrid in 2009, was seen as an opportunity they could not turn down, prompting endless debate as to whether his presence has been positive or detrimental to the team.

However, Rangnick represents the here and now, and Cristiano will be judged by what he can or cannot do.

When Fabio Capello took over the England squad in 2008, he quickly made it clear that he could not, or would not try, to secure a place for Michael Owen on his squad, even though the forward was only 28 at that time. then, adding 41 goals in 88 appearances prior to the signing of Capello as coach. Capello considered that Owen was nothing more than a scorer, being unable to make enough contributions to the team (beyond his goals) to justify his call. He only called him once, as a surrogate, before ignoring him for the rest of his cycle.

Cristiano could become Rangnick’s version at United: a player with an excellent scoring record, but nothing more. And if that turns out to be the case, Cristiano’s return to Old Trafford is likely to be short-lived, because he didn’t sign for United a second time to just watch the action off the bench.

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