How Ronaldo Destabilized Manchester United
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You are probably shocked, but before that, complete the article first.
People always talk about goals, goals, goals, but anybody who knows football knows that goals ain’t everything in football.
Ronaldo was the highest goalscorer in Serie A last season.
Juventus barely made the top four.
So what did his goals achieve for his team? I’m just trying to paint a picture for those who think football is just about scoring goals.
Don’t get me wrong, goals are very very important in football. There are other aspects of the game apart from sticking the ball into the net too.
As a striker, your major job is to score goals, but in today’s modern game, you need to be able to do more than just score goals. And apart from that, you also have to put into consideration how the coach wants the team to play and the balance you bring to the team’s shape.
Balance is everything.
Ask top coaches like Pep, Klopp, Tuchel, they will tell you that shape and balance are everything.
Nowadays, teams play as a unit where every single player is part of a cohesive unit, when one player is not part of that unit, the team loses balance and will find it hard to win matches.
I’ll give you an example. Do you remember Liverpool vs Chelsea earlier this season? When Reece James was red-carded, did you see how Chelsea defended and attacked as a unit?
I’m using this match because it was glaring to the blind cos Chelsea had one less man.
With the way the players lined up and moved up and down (when on possession and off possession), you could tell that Liverpool would need a miracle to score even though they had an additional man advantage.
When you watch Manchester City matches, take your time and try to focus on how all the players move when off the ball and how they move when with the ball.
Shape and balance.
Another top coach who understands this but is too stubborn for his good is Maurizio Sarri.
And it comes as no surprise that Sarri always substituted Ronaldo and benched him at times while he was at Juventus.
Even last season, Ronaldo was scoring goals but when you watch Juventus games, he always seemed like a sore thumb, an odd mango fruit in a bag of pineapples. He wasn’t part of the team so to say.
And as a coach what can you do?
I mean, this is a whole Cristiano Ronaldo. And he is even delivering by scoring goals.
So you see, it’s a dicey situation.
But you have to look beyond just goals.
No Manchester City player contested for the highest goalscorer in the league last season; they didn’t play with a striker most of the time, but they still ran away with the title.
And add to the fact that these players respect Ronaldo a whole lot (of course they should, he is one of the best to play the game), they have this subconscious mind that they need to always give him the ball cos he would score.
But remember what I said earlier, goals ain’t everything in football.
As a striker, you won’t score in every match and in some matches, your goals won’t be enough to win the matches.
So what happens? How will the team succeed when you don’t score?
That’s the problem.
He scored dying minute goals to win matches against Villareal and Atalanta. But what about Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, or even Watford?
People complain about the indefatigable Bruno Fernandes losing his form.
Does a certain Paulo Dybala ring a bell?
Do you think that was just a mere coincidence?
Both players are playmakers who should orchestrate play for the team. They are supposed to play what is akin to the free role.
But how well can they do that if a player like Ronaldo is there?
Especially when Ronaldo doesn’t contribute much to the team’s shape and balance
Something has to give.
Ronaldo will spend majority of time upfield waiting for passes so he could score (and most times he will score, nobody does it better)
But what about the periods when the team can’t get the ball upfield seamlessly?
What about the periods when the team is facing a team that plays with a low block?
What about the periods when the team needs all eleven players to press as a unit?
Do you now see that scoring goals ain’t everything?
Again, I don’t know how good Ole was with his coaching job, so maybe poor coaching was a problem too.
I say this because if a player is not good with pressing, you can teach him. That’s your job as a coach. If a player is not doing what you want to be done, you call him to order.
So did Ole try teaching Ronaldo (and other players around him) these things?
That’s another question.
I know it’s so easy to say these things, but what about when that player is the great Cristiano Ronaldo? Will it still be easy for the coach to teach him these things? So you see, it’s a dicey situation again.
As a coach, you’d be forced to play to Ronaldo’s strengths cos you believe he will always deliver.
Yes, he will deliver many times but what about the periods when he doesn’t deliver?
Remember, Ronaldo is no longer a kid. This is not the Ronaldo you saw in Manchester United or Real Madrid years ago. He has to manage his body so that he won’t get injured because any injury he gets now, especially muscle injuries, may end his career for good.
So don’t expect him to make some high-burst sprints or tackles or take some risks that he is supposed to take.
And Ronaldo being an intelligent player acknowledges this so he has to play to his strengths which are spending more time upfield in prime areas where chances will come and he would dispose of them into the back of the net.
But remember football is a team sport, not an individual sport.
In the long run, the team won’t achieve the great things expected of them if they continue in that arrangement.
At Real Madrid, Ronaldo had some of the best players of this generation doing a great chunk of the job for him.
Add to that the incredible amount of work that Karim Benzema does for the team both upfront in attack, in the middle of the park, and even in defence.
Things were much easier at Real Madrid for Ronaldo and it was easier for his lapses in the game to be covered and his strong points (poaching, scoring) to be highlighted.
But can you find that caliber of players in Juventus or Manchester United?
That is the question.
You may not agree with me, but take it from me, no top team in Europe contesting for league and UCL titles really “needs” Ronaldo at this point.In conclusion, Ronaldo will score goals but whether his goals would be enough to save his team at the end of the day come May is what this writer cannot answer authoritatively at this point.