Ronaldo shows he needs out of Man Utd after Portugal flop

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • 28 Sept 2022 10:25 BST
  • 4 min read
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, 2022

It’s official: Cristiano Ronaldo’s failure to either win a summer transfer move or to earn regular game time so far at Manchester United is now a concern.

The 37-year-old is undoubtedly in the most difficult period of his career, and with the World Cup looming in less than two months, that is a major problem both for him and his country. It’s likely to be the last time that Ronaldo has the opportunity to star on such a stage, yet rarely has he been in such disappointing form.

He has returned just one goal in eight games for Manchester United this season – that a penalty against Moldovan side FC Sheriff in the Europa League – but what was perhaps most concerning of all was that he failed to score in two Nations League outings for Portugal in September, despite playing the full 180 minutes.

This was not a problem as Portugal steamrollered the Czech Republic 4-0 last week, yet Ronaldo passed up an incredible trio of chances against Spain on Tuesday in a match his side lost 1-0.

“Normally, he scores. Tonight, he didn’t. This is football,” Portugal boss Fernando Santos said philosophically after the game.

Ronaldo concerns

But it’s worry that Ronaldo is not scoring. A return of one goal in 10 matches would be of concern for any normal forward, but for a player of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s standard, it is positively alarming. He is now closing in on 10 hours on the field without a goal from open play.

It is his rank lack of sharpness that looks most alarming. This was amply displayed against Spain when he went clear on goal in the second half of the game but hesitated to such an extent that Jose Gaya was able to rob him of possession.

Previously, he had been denied by some alert goalkeeping from Unai Simon, who also thwarted his last-gasp chance that left the forward visibly frustrated.

Ongoing problems

This was no one-off; the doubts are starting to run deep even in Portugal, where Ronaldo’s every touch is graced with a sense of expectation.

“Less Ronaldo, more Portugal,” A Bola ran as their front page just a matter of days ago in a clear dig towards the Manchester United man.

After Tuesday’s defeat, the same source again pondered that the veteran’s playing time may need to be reduced.

Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals last season and has not simply lost his talent overnight. It is this lack of playing time under Erik ten Hag that is hurting him.

Even after missing pre-season, he would surely not have forecasted such a difficult start to the season, and with Man Utd going well domestically, his minutes are likely to be limited in the build up to the World Cup. Little wonder Portugal is growing anxious.

Of course, Ronaldo can get back to the levels of last season, but as long as he remains peripheral at his club, he’s unlikely to do it at Manchester United. His failure to land a summer transfer appears more damaging with each passing match.