How can Rangnick solve the Cristiano conundrum? Ronaldo has now scored just ONCE in his last TEN games, and as Manchester United enter the toughest part of the season, Sancho and Elanga desperately need his goals to back them up
- Cristiano Ronaldo missed several chances for Manchester United vs Watford
- The 37-year-old has scored just once in his last 10 matches for the Red Devils
- United’s next three matches are Manchester City and Tottenham in the Premier League as well as Atletico Madrid in the Champions League
- Ralf Rangnick must solve their attacking woes or kiss goodbye to top-four finish
Manchester United are about to embark on their toughest period in the season so far and they’re behind the eight ball.
Manchester City (A), Tottenham (H) and Atletico Madrid (H) read their next three matches.
These are fixtures that all United supporters should relish but for many a feeling of resignation is already looming due to their ongoing struggles.
Cristiano Ronaldo was left cursing his luck for Manchester United against Watford on Saturday
Ronaldo missed several chances as United drew 0-0 with Watford – with his frustration visible
On Saturday, the Red Devils welcomed lowly Watford to Old Trafford in the Premier League.
The Hornets travelled to Manchester having conceded four at home to Crystal Palace just three days beforehand as their relegation fears worsened.
However, they emerged with a clean sheet and a point after fighting for a 0-0 draw.
In truth, Watford were fortunate but you make your own luck as Manchester United wasted numerous guilt-edged chances, with Cristiano Ronaldo among those at fault.
Ralf Rangnick’s side mustered up 22 shots at Watford’s goal. Of those, the misfiring Ronaldo saw a chance hit the post and also had a first-half effort ruled out for offside.
He also struck Anthony Elanga with a goalbound effort to summarise an afternoon of pure frustration, while also blocking a Bruno Fernandes shot that was heading for goal too.
The forward watches on as his shot in the opening stages against Watford hits the post
Frustration is the perfect word to sum up Ronaldo at present. He has been going through a period of personal frustration with a barren run that has seen him just score once in his last 10 Manchester United matches.
Within the stands at Old Trafford too on Saturday were ever increasing groans of discontent among supporters at his output as well.
Now 37, it’s clear and understandable that this version of the Portuguese superstar isn’t the one that we have all been accustomed to seeing over the last 15 years or so.
He looked sluggish on and off the ball against Roy Hodgson’s side and easily dispirited.
After hitting the post early on, his immediate reaction was to have his head bowed in disbelief at his luck. That’s how his head remained for the rest of the Old Trafford encounter.
His infamous histrionics were soon on show as he grew increasingly frustrated – a demeanour which could be looked at as disparaging to his team-mates.
Ronaldo’s body language was largely negative throughout the match as he failed to score
A natural-born winner, he was incensed that team-mate Fernandes chose to shoot rather than pass to him when through on goal in the 12th minute.
It was a bad miss by Fernandes, who was guilty of spurning other big chances too, but it is hard to fault him for shooting with only Ben Foster to beat.
‘Our job as coaches is to help the team to create enough chances,’ a rueful Rangnick said after the draw.
‘If we’d only had two or three against Watford, we could ask ourselves why.
‘But the number of chances we had, they have to be enough to win the game. We need to be sharper in front of goal. If you miss that many, it’s difficult to win.’
Ronaldo was left fuming after Bruno Fernandes decided not to pass to him in this situation
He and Fernandes both missed key chances as Manchester United dropped points again
Ralf Rangnick lamented his side’s poor finishing in front of goal against Watford at Old Trafford
Man United fixtures
Premier League unless stated
Sunday Manchester City (A)
March 12 Tottenham Hotspur (H)
March 15 Atletico Madrid (H)
Champions League last-16, second leg
April 2 Leicester City (H)
April 9 Everton (A)
April 16 Norwich City (H)
The Watford game is a microcosm of Ronaldo and United’s malaise. Over his last 10 matches he’s had 36 shots, proving that he is not shot-shy. However, only 11 of those have been on target – equating to a shot accuracy of 30.55 per cent.
But, if you break it down further then the figures further underline Rangnick’s point.
According to Opta, the expected goals (xG) of Ronaldo during this 10-game run is 4.5 goals.
The Red Devils have drawn three of their last five Premier League matches to leave their top-four hopes looking bleak.
Ronaldo started two of those draws (Southampton and Watford) and came on as a substitute in the other (Burnley).
If he had been more clinical, that could’ve changed the outcome – especially against Southampton when he had a shot cleared off the line after rounding the goalkeeper.
It’s hard to ascertain what can be done to help Ronaldo and it would be unfair to lay all the blame at his door, although his return from Juventus in August was met with wild fanfare.
Against Southampton in a 1-1 draw, Ronaldo missed this chance after rounding the goalkeeper
Some questioned the decision to re-sign Ronaldo but there is a myriad of problems with United’s attack.
Marcus Rashford is going through an alarming slump in form, Edinson Cavani has struggled for fitness all season, wantaway Jesse Lingard has been used sparingly and Anthony Martial is out loan at Sevilla. And then you have Mason Greenwood’s suspension, which is well documented.
The only positives in attack currently are Jadon Sancho, who is beginning to show the quality he demonstrated weekly at Borussia Dortmund, and teenage talent Elanga, a bright spot against Watford with his injection of pace a continual threat.
He was a stark contrast to the rest of his attacking team-mates, who were stagnant, making it easy for Watford’s defenders.
Marcus Rashford (left) is enduring a bad run of form, while Anthony Martial is on loan at Sevilla
As a consequence, Rangnick’s options to rectify this are limited. Elanga and Sancho are deserving of starting spots on the flanks.
Ronaldo’s status, irrespective of form, will invariably see him start more often than not too.
Rangnick built a reputation in Germany as an innovator and he will need to think of something to reinvigorate Ronaldo. It’s clear that he needs runners in and around him but doing that sacrifices the defensive side of the team as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found out at the cost of his job.
Fernandes, Elanga and Sancho in theory provide all of that but the former has also been below par more often that not this season.
The Red Devils aren’t good enough to be carrying passengers and the lack of movement is highlighted by Cavani’s absence, but he is 35 himself.
Edinson Cavani has been missed up front, but the 35-year-old is constantly injured it seems
As detailed by Sportsmail, United are set for a huge summer transfer window but would prefer to keep both Ronaldo and Martial if possible.
The emergence of Elanga under Rangnick has been a huge bonus and if the German coach can revive Rashford in the same way that he has Sancho then United have the makings of a vibrant attack.
That’s all for the future though and they have to focus on the here and now – starting with those daunting four fixtures coming up.
United have enjoyed a lot of success against City in recent years on the counter-attack but they have moved away from that style this season.
They now have a clear week to plan for the Manchester derby on the training pitch. Rangnick’s tactics will be interesting as it’s clear bodies are needed in and around Ronaldo otherwise their attack will be stagnant if he is the lone striker.
It’s a delicate balancing act but a problem he must solve if they are to emerge from March with their hopes of a top-four finish and continuation in the Champions League still intact.
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