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CHRIS SUTTON: Cristiano Ronaldo poses an urgent problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

CHRIS SUTTON: He’s one of the greats of the game, but Cristiano Ronaldo poses an urgent problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I would be surprised if Manchester United finished better than any City, Chelsea or Liverpool.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s renewal was a fairytale reunion for Manchester United
  • But it poses more problems than solutions for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
  • The forward boasts a fast pace for the Red Devils, but fails to put pressure on opponents.
  • Of the 50 forwards in the Premier League, Ronaldo averages the fewest pressures per 90


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Manchester United’s rehiring with Cristiano Ronaldo was romantic. After all that time apart, the beating heart returned to where it belonged.

But it has been seen less sleepless in Seattle and more meandering in Manchester.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after Wednesday’s win over Atalanta that anyone who questions Ronaldo’s pace of work should see the performance he just put in. Sorry, I don’t believe it and neither should you.

The forward's work rate was recently questioned.

The Red Devils coach defended the Portuguese star after his comeback against Atalanta

The Red Devils coach defended the Portuguese star after his comeback against Atalanta

Cristiano Ronaldo’s renewal was celebrated by fans but poses a problem for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

I, like any Premier League fan, was excited for Ronaldo’s return. But I had my reservations about how it would work.

I wrote a column in this newspaper on August 28 saying it would be a hit or a sideshow, and that Solskjaer would have a hard time handling the ego of his new signing. No one can doubt his ability. No one can dispute their numbers. Ronaldo equalizes goals and has appeared with a couple of important ones. But the game has evolved in the sense that the best coaches in the world do not tolerate bringing in fancy players.

If you don’t run, you don’t play for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea or Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

This was a forced signing of the United manager and, behind all those smiles for the cameras, he must have been thinking: ‘How the hell am I going to handle it?’

The Portugal star has appeared with some crucial goals, including the winner against Atalanta.

The Portugal star has appeared with some crucial goals, including the winner against Atalanta.

The Portugal star has appeared with some crucial goals, including the winner against Atalanta.

The signing was imposed on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) who faces a riddle behind the smiles

The signing was imposed on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) who faces a riddle behind the smiles

The signing was imposed on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) who faces a riddle behind the smiles

Would Solskjaer dare to sit Ronaldo in his office in Carrington and tell him, in no uncertain terms, ‘If you don’t push, you don’t play?’

It would surprise me. Once Ronaldo gets into gear at full speed, it becomes blurry. It’s like I have spicy powder on my boots. Despite his defense of his forward in public, I’m willing to bet that Solskjaer would love for his 36-year-old forward to apply some of that quickness to pressure opposing players.

But statistics show that it doesn’t do that. He’s in a light jog mode most of the time.

Of the 50 forwards who have played more than 360 minutes in the Premier League this season, Ronaldo averages the fewest pressures per 90. He’s at the bottom of the pile.

United made a major signing in the summer. Commercially, it was monumental, considering this is the most followed person on the planet on social media. But on the pitch, United are still trying to catch up with their Premier League rivals.

In possession they are excellent. They have so many match winners that they can score a belter out of nowhere, like Mason Greenwood did against Leicester, or produce an incredible assist, like Bruno Fernandes did with Marcus Rashford against Atalanta.

The Portugal international provided an impressive assist as Marcus Rashford found the net in his comeback against Atalanta

The Portugal international provided an impressive assist as Marcus Rashford found the net in his comeback against Atalanta

The United star scored the opening goal against Leicester before the Red Devils collapsed in a 4-2 loss.

The United star scored the opening goal against Leicester before the Red Devils collapsed in a 4-2 loss.

Bruno Fernandes provided crucial assist as Mason Greenwood scored against Leicester

But out of possession, United is one less man. Ronaldo doesn’t push, and that means Solskjaer’s team can’t go to games with a plan to push. Anyway, it is not a suitable plan.

If you don’t push as a unit, it doesn’t work because the opposition spends the whole week in training ground practicing how to use those holes that you are leaving in their favor.

Juventus signed Ronaldo because they wanted to win the Champions League. They then finished fourth in Serie A. I would be surprised if United finished better than any City, Chelsea or Liverpool this season.

Juventus signed Ronaldo to win the Champions League, but then finished fourth

Juventus signed Ronaldo to win the Champions League, but then finished fourth

Juventus signed Ronaldo to win the Champions League, but then finished fourth

Ronaldo is one of the best footballers of all time. No doubt about that.

He loves to win and if he is not happy he will let the world know, as he did after the draw with Everton when he left the field at Old Trafford.

He is a glorious scorer. But it is not a presser and a workhorse. City linked up with Ronaldo but he dismissed the advances of that love rival next door and instead returned home. Like I said: romantic.

But it looks like this five-time Ballon d’Or winner isn’t what Solskjaer needs right now.

United need a team full of races and fight for the full 90 minutes. You are not guaranteed that of Ronaldo.

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