CRISTIANO RONALDO’S fairytale return to Manchester United is quickly unravelling into a nightmare.
He knows it, the fans are increasingly thinking it, and the new manager does not know how to reverse it.
Only three players have been caught offside more in the Premier League this season that Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s dream move to United is quickly turning into a nightmareCredit: AFP
He returned in a bid to win another title, another Champions League, to complete the circle back at the club where he made his name.
At this rate he’ll be lucky to have an FA Cup winners’ medal to add to his impressive haul.
It was never meant to be like this when on September 11th he returned to Old Trafford on an afternoon of high emotion.
In 22 years covering the club I have witnessed few afternoons to match it, as the fans celebrated long before, during and after their 4-1 win over Newcastle in which Ronaldo scored twice.
United had snatched him from Manchester City’s grasp and were now ready to snatch their title back from their neighbours also.
City seem to be doing ok without him right now, while United have lost eight of their 22 games since – and lost a manager who took them to second last season and led them to a Europa League Final.
The club is on the slide and now some are wondering whether he could be part of the problem.
Now, Ronaldo has single-handedly dragged the club into the knockout stages of the Champions League with six goals in five European games.
He also has eight in 16 in the Premier League, although in only four of his 16 games has he recorded more than one shot on target.
A tweet sent out post the Wolves defeat asking what United fans thought of the Ronaldo situation brought a rush of replies and the feeling was split.
Many acknowledged that without his goals the club would be in a much worse state.
Others felt his late addition to the squad had messed up Ole Solskjaer’s best-laid plans.
It was a sudden addition he had not reckoned for and can be argued derailed the long term project in which he saw a frontline of Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford with Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings.
Now everything needs to go through Ronaldo and he can get squeezed out of games.
Players whose stars should be rising now, like Greenwood and Rashford must feel like they are literally in the wings while the main performance plays out elsewhere – likewise with Sancho.
Why was Greenwood hauled off instead of Edinson Cavani or even Ronaldo himself on Monday night?
Of course, Ronaldo’s ability to score late goals always dictates he should be there, so it is a big call to raise the number seven when subs are being made.
When Michael Carrick left him out the starting line-up in the away draw at Chelsea his tactics worked well at a time when a listing ship needed steadying.
He came on midway through the second half of that 1-1 draw but stormed down the tunnel at the end ignoring the away support and the Chelsea players.
Just as he had when left out of the starting line-up for the home draw with Everton.
It smacked of it being all about him when actually they had eeked out an impressive result at Stamford Bridge just over a week after the emotional departure of Ole Solskjaer.
The thing is when Ronaldo is anywhere, it is all about Ronaldo, his stats demand that.
People look to him for the reason things are going right or, as is the case now, wrong.
There are even claims he took Juventus into reverse despite 101 goals in 134 games.
His public shows of disgruntlement with him shaking his head and waving his arms when things are going wrong on the pitch and storming down the tunnel afterwards do not help.
When Ralf Rangnick complained about body language after the awful display at St.James’ Park, Ronaldo could not be excused and may have been his main target.
Then rumours were rife about just who Luke Shaw was referring to post-match after Monday night’s Wolves defeat when he said: “I didn’t think we were all there together.”
That was a performance in which Ronaldo got through and put a half volley over and turned in a Bruno Fernandes free-kick but was ruled out for offside.
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He is becoming regularly ruled out for offside, an incredible athlete at 36, but even he has lost that yard which makes a difference when the VAR lines are drawn.
He has been caught offside 14 times this season, only three players have been caught more in Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Raul Jiminez at Wolves and Burnley’s Chris Wood, and the trio have played more minutes than him.
Behind the scenes there are already rumours that Ronaldo has grown aloof and he had the captain’s armband on Monday.
Cliques are apparently starting to develop in the camp.
The blame game is growing.
When a club changes a manager five times in eight-and-a-half years and employs two caretakers as well it is clear, however, where the buck always stops and players can hide.
Ronaldo has never been one to do that.
While the love affair between player and club will stand this test the argument that ‘you should never go back to your ex’ is growing.