When Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo back in the summer, they believed they’d secured a player capable of bringing the glory days back to Old Trafford. After all, having electrified the Premier League previously and dazzled for Real Madrid and Juventus, he appeared a guaranteed success. However, after his latest bad showing against Watford, Ralf Rangnick may have to do the unthinkable by leaving him on the bench for a run of games.
Prior to Rangnick’s appointment, Ronaldo had picked up from where he’d left off at Old Trafford.
When he departed for Real Madrid in 2009, he was the best player in the world having won the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi and Kaka the previous year.
And Ronaldo had proven his doubters wrong during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s turbulent spell in charge, netting nine goals in 13 games.
Since Rangnick’s appointment, however, his form has suffered.
He has scored on just three separate occasions under the 63-year-old, with efforts against Norwich City, Burnley and Brighton.
And his failure to net against Watford on Saturday means he’s currently on a run of just one goal from his last 10 appearances across all competitions.
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When United did re-sign Ronaldo in the summer, 12 years after he’d quit for Los Blancos, they believed he could summon the magic of old to inspire a title charge.
Yet it’s now abundantly clear that this 37-year-old version of their No 7 is no longer the superstar he was.
That’s not to say Ronaldo is a bad footballer. He isn’t.
But United needed the Galactico variant of the Portugal international, the one that propelled Real Madrid to five Champions League crowns and helped Juventus continue their dominance of Serie A.
Instead, they’ve got this pale imitation.
His statistics against Watford make for grim reading on a day where Rangnick’s side dropped more points amid their challenge to finish in the Premier League top four.
He completed just one dribble on the day, with the Hornets managing to take all the sting out of his game due to there diligent set-up under Roy Hodgson.
And Ronaldo also managed just one shot on target, too, and four overall.
If you’d said at the start of the season that there would be a need for United to drop the veteran at one stage, many would have been surprised.
However, it’s now abundantly clear he’s a shadow of his old self with the magic fading with each passing game.
Ronaldo no longer possesses the speed he once relied on, with the ex-Sporting Lisbon winger cutting an isolated figure up top.
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And even his touch, for so long sublime, has started to let him down as well.
Ronaldo, with 15 goals to his name, hasn’t been a disappointment from that perspective. At times, like against Brighton, he’s capable of getting on the scoresheet.
But he’s beginning to be a weak link in this United team, spurning chances aplenty and costing his side dear in the process.
Ronaldo has been benched by the club at times, both under Solskjaer and Rangnick.
Yet that’s normally been to give him a rest and ensure he’s fit for the next game, whoever that’s against.
Now, though, he needs an extended spell on the sidelines.
United could gamble by trying Marcus Rashford in a central role, with the England international previously playing as a No 9 under Louis van Gaal.
Jadon Sancho is another option, though the England international has been better out on the left wing in recent weeks.
And when Edinson Cavani is fit, he’s the one United would likely call upon to replace Ronaldo.
The Portugal international’s Hollywood homecoming back in the summer doesn’t look like it will end with him on any sort of Oscars podium.
The dream return is, after this latest poor showing against Watford, turning into a nightmare.
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