Garth Crooks has suggested that Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick might need to be brave and leave Cristiano Ronaldo out of his team in order to find the right balance for the rest of his players.
The Red Devils showed some signs of improvement despite a frustrating 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa in their last game, with Ronaldo not involved and Bruno Fernandes looking back to his best.
Crooks believes this was the best Man Utd had played for a while, though it would undoubtedly be a big call by Rangnick to leave out someone like Ronaldo.
Discussing this in his Premier League team of the week column for BBC Sport, Crooks said: “This was the best hour of football I’ve seen from Manchester United for some time and a performance conspicuous by Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence.
“Edinson Cavani seems a much better fit up front and Fernandes looked back to his best. Ralf Rangnick may have found a formula he can build on, but whether he has the bottle to leave Ronaldo out of the side in order to do it remains to be seen.”
The pundit added that Ronaldo also needs to look at himself before criticising his United team-mates, as he did in a recent interview.
“Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick wants his players to hold each other to account after Cristiano Ronaldo questioned their mentality. Ronaldo has expressed concern about the attitude of some his team-mates and suggested it needs to be better for United to be successful this term,” Crooks said.
“I couldn’t agree more – and it should start with him. Ever since he returned to Old Trafford the Portuguese international has behaved like a prima donna. He may be the star of the show but the constant waving of his hands in the air when events don’t go his way – a sign that the crowd’s moans and groans regarding United’s failures are all down to his team-mates and nothing to do with him – is irritating.
“I expect better from a player of his calibre. Scoring goals and looking good isn’t what the game is all about. The game is nothing if it’s not about the team. Ronaldo always looks immaculate on the pitch but sometimes, especially when things are going badly, he has to get among the muck and nettles in order to pull his team through difficult periods.
“Ronaldo no longer plays for Real Madrid or Juventus – teams who were winning titles and lifting trophies effortlessly. He’s playing for Manchester United, a team with an enormous reputation but struggling. His team-mates are not just looking to him to score goals but for leadership.
“I have no doubt he would have been better off across the road playing for Manchester City. Let’s face it, they are an exceptional side, but for better or for worse he has chosen to return to the club that made him and to give something back as he comes to the end of his career. However, if the five-time Ballon d’Or winner wants to finish his career on a high at Old Trafford then he must heed the words of Rangnick and initiate a brutal, but sincere heart-to-heart with his team-mates and galvanise a spirt within the team. But before he does, he should start with himself first.”
This seems a bit harsh on the Portugal international, who has performed well and justified the hype since his return to Old Trafford in the summer.