Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Can Ronaldo Save Manchester United Season? After a Rescues Against Villarreal

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Ronaldo Rescues Manchester United Against Villarreal, but Can He Save Their Season?

Manchester United stared at a familiar proposition on Wednesday night. Knotted at 1-1 against their Europa League Final foe Villarreal, United looked out of ideas. In a game where they had been second best, a draw appeared to be a fair consolation. That was until Cristiano Ronaldo rescued the day.

Villarreal hit Man Utd on the counterattack 💥 pic.twitter.com/pMg1LH7pVD
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 29, 2021


Losing to Villarreal would have put Manchester United’s Champions League dreams on life support. They would be on zero points and looking up at three teams, two with four points, and one with three. A tie would have kept the dream alive, but any slip ups could prove costly. However, a win and its three points would get United right back in the thick of it.
United found themselves down 1-0 to Villarreal after a 53rd minute goal from Paco Alcacer. This wasn’t a fluke goal either, Villarreal had been the better side. The Yellow Submarine constantly created chances down United’s right side as Aaron Wan-Bissaka watched from the sidelines ruing his red card against Young Boys. Once again, it looked like United were going to be upset in the Champions League.



The imminent defeat was wrestled away by a superb volley from Alex Telles in the 60th minute. The set-piece routine looked straight out of a video game for its audacity and execution. United had won a set piece near the goal line for what was essentially a short corner. Accordingly, Villarreal prepared for a lofted cross into the 18-yard. However, Bruno Fernandes and Alex Telles had other ideas. Fernandes lofted the ball to Telles readied himself for a first time strike with his favored left foot. The result was a thing of beauty.

WHAT A WAY TO SCORE YOUR FIRST MAN UTD GOAL. ALEX TELLES. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/Cs00EMeL6c
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 29, 2021

Against the run of play, United were back on level footing. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of Edison Cavani and Nemanja Matic in the 75th minute that United looked like they might go ahead and claim all three points. The pressing and intensity that Cavani brought disrupted Villarreal’s build-up and gave United ample chances to win the ball high up the field. In the 79th minute, Cavani missed a header at the back post that would be United’s best chance of the game.



As the game neared the 90th minute, Villarreal broke through again, but Boulaye Dia had two shots blocked by David De Gea in the six yard box. The game looked destined for a tie until Ronaldo made his mark.
Ronaldo had a relatively quiet night. He wasn’t able to get consistent service, his runs weren’t rewarded, his half-hearted pressing did little to trouble Villarreal, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Ronaldo was brought back to United for one simple reason: to score goals. Fred played a cross to the back post that Ronaldo headed to a streaking Jesse Lingard in front of goal. Swarmed by Villarreal defenders, Lingard poked the ball to a waiting Ronaldo, who buried the shot, won the game, and rescued
Manchester United.

CRISTIANO RONALDO. IN THE 95TH MINUTE. FTW. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/rYqW2gzcqo
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 29, 2021

Ronaldo’s goal will capture all the headlines and will erase the previous 90 minutes of poor play. That’s why United brought Ronaldo back. He is one of the rare players who can erase a bad performance with individual moments of brilliance. Tonight, it was enough to rescue United, but will it be enough to rescue their season?
Suggesting United needs saving requires context. They’re one point off the lead in the Premier League, and sit one point behind Atalanta in their Champions League group. For as early as it is in the season, United are right where they need to be to compete for the two trophies they covet the most.



However, United’s status as Champions League and Premier League
contenders doesn’t look set to last. Their expected goals in the Premier League show a side that’s well behind Liverpool and Manchester City in quality, and that’s without them having played any team in the big-six. Their play in the Premier League looks absolutely sterling compared to the performances they’ve mustered in the Champions League.
Despite the Win, Ole needs to go. #OleOut pic.twitter.com/DV7voLKYuq
— The Romantic Mukiga (@emeka_ug) September 29, 2021

In both of their Champions League matches, they’ve been thoroughly played off the pitch. If their group had two European heavyweights it would be somewhat understandable. However, United haven’t even played the best team in their group yet, Atalanta. If United wants a challenge for the big trophies again, they need to improve their performances on the pitch.


As tonight proved, Ronaldo is still capable of making a difference, but he is not the game wrecking force he was when he first left United. He remains the finest finisher in the entire world, but that’s essentially it. He doesn’t press, he rarely creates chances for others, and he can’t beat defenders one-on-one with consistency. For the performances to improve, there needs to be a tactical shift, and that starts with the manager.
United have the talent to compete for big trophies, and it’s up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to harness all the power at his disposal. The result tonight will ease the pressure, but already United fans are demanding
more.

If Soskjaer is banking on Ronaldo saving United’s season, and his job in the process, then he’ll be coaching a Norwegian League side by next time this year. If United wants to challenge for trophies, they need to install a system that can generate more than a few half chances a game for Ronaldo. If it wasn’t for two goalkeeper errors, Ronaldo could very easily be on one Premier League goal.
Manchester United doesn’t need Ronaldo to rescue them. They just need Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stop holding them back, because it shouldn’t be this hard to win when you have Ronaldo leading your line.
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