Manchester United are reportedly ready to cut ties with Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer if they miss out on Champions League qualification and he expresses a wish to move on. Ronaldo, 37, has scored 15 goals since his Old Trafford return but United have been a far poorer outfit as a whole with him than when they finished second last season. Express Sport look at several players who could actually benefit if Ronaldo leaves the club a second time after just 12 months back in Manchester.
One of those worst hit by Ronaldo’s presence at United has been the talismanic No 10 Fernandes, who has only scored three goals while sharing the pitch with his fellow Portuguese.
Fernandes still has 12 assists – almost all of which have come while on the pitch with Ronaldo to be fair – but the 27-year-old’s level have undoubtedly dipped from his 28-goal, 17-assist campaign last term.
He remains a pivotal and productive player but is not the all-conquering playmaker he used to be and no longer has the honour of taking penalties or free-kicks.
Were Ronaldo to leave, Fernandes’ status as the team’s go-to man would be restored, and with it so too might be his obscene numbers of his first 18 months in the Premier League. He’s a better free-kick taker than his compatriot, that’s for sure.
Maguire recently felt the need to respond to reports that he and Ronaldo are locked in a row over the captain’s armband, with claims the Portuguese has been asked to act as a mentor for the younger players in the squad which has left the current skipper feeling uneasy.
The England centre-back however says the dressing room is “united and focused” while Ralf Rangnick branded the claims “absolutely nonsense”.
Clearly the manager and players want it known such rumours are not true but the very existence of reports about the state of the dressing room is a distraction in itself for United.
Maguire in particular may benefit from no longer having his seniority behind the scenes questioned publicly, and a personality the size of Ronaldo departing would reduce some of the pressure to strip him of the armband.
Rashford’s return of 21 goals and 15 assists last season, from 57 games, was the best of his career but this term he has stuttered.
Let’s be clear that is not all because of Ronaldo but certainly the lack of attacking fluidity, compared to the cohesion under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pre-CR7, has seen him suffer with injuries another contributing factor.
England forward Rashford has just five goals and two assists this term from 21 outings, two of which have come as a centre-forward when Ronaldo has not been on the pitch.
Having a striker with whom he can better link up with, and who the team can work around more efficiently as a whole, could help the 24-year-old academy graduate hit the heights of previous campaigns again. Or perhaps he himself will be the centre-forward.
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A new striker
It looks like there’ll be an attacking overhaul at United this summer, with Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard all set to depart. Mason Greenwood’s future is also in doubt.
If Ronaldo makes an exit and those four do not play for the club next season, that would leave Jadon Sancho, Rashford and Anthony Elanga as the main options, and would clear the path for a new frontman to come in and make his mark.
Erling Haaland is among the targets but is a pipe dream if United miss out on the top four, with Alexander Isak, Lautaro Martinez and Patrik Schick mentioned as possible alternatives.
Any new recruit would find it easier to settle in if they were not competing for minutes up top with Ronaldo with even the experienced Cavani having struggled for starts this term, albeit with injuries also playing their part.
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