Manchester United are set to continue the 2022/23 season without Cristiano Ronaldo in the squad after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
Having said that he does not respect head coach Erik ten Hag during an interview with Talk TV, there was clearly no way back for Ronaldo and his second spell at Manchester United has come to an ugly end.
United were already light in the centre-forward department coming into this season as they only had Ronaldo and Anthony Martial as recognised strikers in the squad. The latter has been impressive when playing but is often injured.
Ten Hag has often had to use Marcus Rashford as the striker even though the Englishman is generally more effective on the left wing. Now that the option of Ronaldo is gone, United surely need to enter the market in January for some attacking depth.
What sort of hole does Ronaldo’s departure leave in terms of goals and results, though?
Cristiano Ronaldo came back to Manchester United from Juventus at the beginning of the 2021/22 season and the figures would suggest that he was a much better player then than he is right now.
United lost all five Premier League games last season in which Ronaldo was not involved and his 24 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions were absolutely crucial for the Red Devils in what was overall a disappointing season.
They averaged 1.63 points per game with the Portuguese forward in the team and 0.4 per game without him. He was the primary source of goals but it still was not enough to secure Champions League qualification which led to his desire to leave in the summer.
Despite his and Jorge Mendes’ efforts, that move never materialised and he had to head back to Carrington with his tail between his legs.
Cristiano Ronaldo in 2021/22 – all competitions
We probably won’t know until he joins a new team whether Ronaldo’s drop in effectiveness this season was down to age starting to affect him or the fact that he had to stick around at a club he clearly wanted to leave, with a coach who can’t have wanted him to stay after the summer’s antics.
Simply put though, United have both looked better and been better without Ronaldo in 2022/23. Ronaldo has started ten of the 16 games that he has played a part in this season. In those ten starts, United have scored 12 goals. In the eight games that the former Real Madrid man has been involved in, they have scored 15 goals.
United just look a lot more fluid in attack when a selection of the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Antony, Jadon Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho are on the pitch. There is a feeling that the entire team is servicing Ronaldo when he is on, attempting to gift him a goal on a silver platter. It was particularly prevalent in the Europa League group stage.
Ronaldo has got three goals and two assists in 16 games this season for United and that is where his tally will stay. It is not a lot of output for United to replace, but they will be concerned about simply having another player to put into the starting XI when other forwards are injured or need a rest.
The recent Carabao Cup victory for United over Aston Villa was a superb example of how United’s attack can look. The goals came from Rashford, Fernandes, Scott McTominay and Martial. There were also two assists off the bench for Garnacho, and Sancho and Antony were not involved.
There is plenty of firepower for Ten Hag to tap into, but United are missing that focal point. Now that Ronaldo is gone, they can address that in the transfer window and become a serious attacking force.