Sportsmail writers argue whether Ronaldo has been a good signing (2022)

There were high hopes at Manchester United when Cristiano Ronaldo made his fairytale return to the club last summer.

The club had just finished second in the Premier League and there was talk United could produce a title challenge with the additions of Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho.

United though have tumbled down the standings after a season of turmoil both on and off the pitch and will miss out on Champions League football after Brighton put them to the sword at the Amex.


Ronaldo's individual statistics have been impressive despite the club's many issues, but the decision to bring him back has divided fans and pundits.

After a rare comfortable 3-0 victory over Brentford on Monday, Jamie Carragher insisted on Sky Sportsthat the signing made United look like a 'small team'.

Here, Sportsmail's Kieran Lynch and Kieran Jackson argue over whether the 37-year-old has been a good signing, or if United would be better off without him.

Manchester United have gone backwards since the fairytale return of Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo's goal return has been impressive despite United's wide array of issues on the pitch

Fans and pundits are divided over his return, with Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher stating after Manchester United's 3-0 win over Brentford that it made them look like a 'small club'

Ronaldo has been a good signing but his supporting cast have dragged him down

By Kieran Lynch

While the season has not gone as planned for Manchester United, this doesn't mean that Ronaldo has been a bad signing.

Big things were always to be expected when he made his return given his reputation as one of the best to ever lace up a pair of football boots, with some believing that United could produce their strongest title challenge since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

This has not been the case and there are a wide array of reasons to explain why, but the fact that his signing hasn't gone as hoped down to the issues surrounding him at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has been desperate for service this season with United lacking creativity in midfield

Not many United players will have much positive to look back on from the 2021-22 season

Yes, there were external commercial factors which drove the signing and he has left some infuriated over his temperament and attitude - storming off the pitch after a number of poor results and recently slapping a mobile phone out of an Everton fan's hand.

However, you could not blame him for being frustrated with his supporting cast who have dragged him down this season, with many players alarmingly out of form.

It is worrying to think where United would be if it wasn't for Ronaldo or David de Gea, who have come to their rescue at both ends of the pitch throughout the campaign.

Ronaldo has scored 24 goals in all competitions this season, which is more than Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani combined (22).

His addition might have limited opportunities for other forwards at the club but that is always going to be the case when you bring in a player of Ronaldo's quality, who even at the age of 37, is an upgrade on the forwards United had at their disposal.

Last season, United's most prolific forward in the league was Rashford who netted on 11 occasions. Building on a second place finish, it was clear United needed to sign a prolific goalscorer and even if on a short-term deal, it made sense to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford.

One issue, though, has been the lack of creativity from United's midfield which is in dire need of strengthening this summer. Playing up front, Ronaldo needs good service and that is something that has not been provided to him.

Ronaldo is still in the hunt for the Golden Boot and is just four goals off Liverpool's Mo Salah

Of his 18 Premier League goals this season, the players who provided him the most assists are Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic, neither of whom are regular starters, with two apiece.

Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Fred and Scott McTominay, have only provided one assist each for United's biggest goalscoring threat.

Despite this he is still only four goals behind Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in the Golden Boot race.

Taking away his goals this season, including hat-tricks against Tottenham and Norwich and a brace against Arsenal earlier in the season - United would be 15 points worse off than they are now and sitting barely inside the top 10.

Roy Keane recently claimed Ronaldo would have 50 goals this season if he played for Chelsea. Perhaps an over-exaggeration, but if he played for the Blues, yet alone Manchester City or Liverpool, then the Golden Boot could already be sewn up.

United would have 15 fewer points this season if you take away his 18 Premier League goals

There have been reports that the Portuguese superstar could leave the club this summer upon the arrival of current Ajax manager Erik ten Hag.

Ten Hag has historically played energetic, passing football with young players, so Ronaldo's future will have a question mark over it given he turns 38 next year.

But considering what Ronaldo has done on the pitch this season for a struggling United squad, he would certainly be an asset to the Dutchman.

Though it will be tough to challenge Man City or Liverpool, if Ten Hag can sign the right players to strengthen around Ronaldo, then the Portuguese superstar is the best man to lead United's forward line next season.

Things have turned sour with Ronaldo when you look past his individual statistics

By Kieran Jackson

When analysing Ronaldo's return to Manchester United this season, we all have to do something which has become uncommon in football fandom and analysis: you have to look beyond the individual statistics.

Yes, the Portuguese forward is the club's top-scorer with an impressive 24 goals in all competitions, 14 ahead of second-on-the-list, compatriot Bruno Fernandes. Yes, his star quality virtually single-handedly dragged United through to the Champions League knockout stages with six goals in five matches.

Yes, nobody can doubt his place in the list of all-time footballing greats. But despite all of this, was it a good move for United to plunge for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner with their neighbours across Manchester circling late in last summer's transfer window? No, it wasn't. And here's why.

Part of the issue is this: United never had Ronaldo on their list of summer transfer targets until a move essentially became unavoidable amid uneasiness about him moving across town.

Ask Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the beginning of the window about a potential move for Ronaldo - with his unhappiness at Juventus yet to emerge - and he would have laughed it out the room.

Things quickly turned sour following Ronaldo's arrival at the end of the summer window

But, ultimately, the Red Devils had to sign him, didn't they? They could not let him go to City, a move beyond the realms of disaster all round. A two-year, £386,000-a-week contract was signed in the final days of the window.

Commercially, it was a no-brainer. Ronaldo is the biggest star on the planet, illustrated by his No 1 400 million+ followers on Instagram. The sheer excitement in the terraces and in the boardroom was palpable.

But beyond a debut two goals against Newcastle, on the pitch things quickly turned sour.

Solskjaer was forced to change the whole direction of his team due to Ronaldo's arrival. The likes of Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek have all seen their opportunities limited. Marcus Rashford's form has plummeted too.

In fact, virtually nobody has shone in this United team since Ronaldo signed, other than Ronaldo himself.

When Martial was handed a rare start in October against Everton, with Solskjaer doing the unthinkable and resting a player four months shy of his 37th birthday in Ronaldo, the Frenchman scored.

Ronaldo has stormed off down the tunnel following a number of poor results this season

Yet United did not win and, having come off the bench with minimal impact, Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel, in disgust.

This was not a one-off either. Even with Solskjaer gone and with ex-team-mate Michael Carrick in charge, Ronaldo was the first man off the pitch when United drew at Chelsea in November, having again been a substitute.

No matter who you are, that is simply not helpful for team morale.

Is Ronaldo solely to blame for embarrassing afternoons at the office against the likes of Liverpool, Watford and Wolves? Of course not. In fact, he saved his team in Europe against Atalanta and Villarreal.

But the truth is that players have failed to shine in Ronaldo's shadow. Speculation about dressing room rifts, with Harry Maguire's captaincy questioned amid a tumultuous drop in form, have failed to go away despite a change in the dug-out, with Ralf Rangnick also struggling to marry up Ronaldo's individual brilliance with a collective upturn in results.

The German, aware of his striker's limitations, has also failed to implement the high-pressing, high-intensity tactics he is known for.

There has been talk of rifts in the dressing room with Harry Maguire's captaincy questioned

Marcus Rashford's form has plummeted while other players' opportunities have been limited

Of course, people will remember the moments of glory: the hat-trick against Tottenham, a brilliant solo effort versus Brighton, and a three-goal showing against Norwich.

But the impact has not been felt across the pitch, anywhere on the pitch. In fact, has all the focus on Ronaldo taken away the spotlight, and confidence with it, from other stars, such as Sancho? Probably, yes. After all, his £73m arrival from Borussia Dortmund was long heralded as the dream signing United wanted. And in a matter of weeks, that quickly changed.

Ultimately, in a sport where the results of the team always overshadow the feats of the individual, United's dramatic demise from second in the Premier League last season to sixth with two games left in this campaign gives you the answer to the genuine impact of Ronaldo's return.

The question now, with a new man coming in to fix the sinking ship, is what to do with Ronaldo? Do you ignore the glut of goals for the sake of the team, or trial new systems and formations to get the best of both worlds? Over to you, Erik.

It's still uncertain as to whether Erik ten Hag will want to keep the 37-year-old superstar

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