When you sign one of the most powerful and successful players of all-time, it is natural that you adapt to their needs. Add in the return of a departed legend, too, and most clubs will bend over backwards to meet their needs. That is exactly what happened at Manchester United. The Red Devils brought back Cristiano Ronaldo, a legend of the 2000s, and he was personally successful last year as he scored around one goal for every two games. The impact he had on the squad, though, was more detrimental.
Gone was the press-heavy, team-oriented approach of the previous season. Instead, the arrival of Ronaldo left the Manchester club with a headache. A goal scoring forward who is no longer able, or willing, to press. This left the team looking disjointed, more akin to a team of the mid-00s that had a clear split between attacking and defensive players. Naturally, this kind of outdated squad system left United miles behind their counterparts, seeing rivals Liverpool and Manchester City fight for the title until the 38th match day – meanwhile, United missed out on the UEFA Champions League.
The midseason sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opened the door for Ralf Rangnick, but it is safe to say things did not work out. The German tried to implement a system that never suited his side at all. The results were predictable: poor squad harmony, and even worse results. This has left United in quite a bind – including the fact that Ronaldo now wants to be freed from his deal.
Not being in the UCL is a major blow for the Portuguese, who is proud of his record and wants to add to it – and his trophy haul – before retiring. As currently constructed, United look like top four challengers, but not title challengers.
Ronaldo and United at loggerheads over next step
The problem now is even more pronounced in that reports suggest Ronaldo has asked to be freed from his deal. His entourage believe that his lack of suitability to the current United rebuild as well as the fact he is such a hero at the club means that he should be listened to. For their part, though, United want to keep the forward and have made clear they will not be cutting any contract down or shortening anything.
This leaves the club in a tough spot – Ronaldo being unhappy will only likely bleed into the press. This leads to stories of discontent bleeding out into the public, causing even more problems for the club. And with one of their most respected players likely downing tools, how will that impact the overall mood and morale around the club?
At the moment, there is precious little that can be done to change the mind of the Portuguese. He is, for all intents and purposes, leaving. This will be a bitter blow for the club, who now need to adapt and adjust to losing one of their most talismanic and important players against their will.
If United want any kind of harmony and progressive mood around the club, though, they might need to listen.