As Manchester United beat arch-rivals Liverpool 2-1 to earn their first victory of the 2022-23 Premier League season on Monday, Ronaldo was left out of the starting lineup. The performance was a massive departure from last weekend, where they let Brentford race to a 4-0 lead as early as the 35th minute of the game.

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Fans were predictably frustrated and Manchester United desperately needed to respond and show that they were up for the fight, at the very least. They did that and took the game to Liverpool from the get-go.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring for the Red Devils with a composed finish before Marcus Rashford added another eight minutes into the second half.

 

Liverpool pulled one back through Mohamed Salah but United held on for dear life and earned a hard-fought victory. The fact that Manchester United looked like a completely different outfit with Ronaldo on the bench.

BRUNO FERNANDES

Bruno Fernandes To Play In An Advanced Role Helps The Team Perform Better

Bruno Fernandes is at his best when he is given the freedom to regularly barge into the penalty area and affect the final product. It’s worth noting that Fernandes scored 27 goals and provided 18 assists in 58 appearances across all competitions for the Red Devils in the 2020-21 season. That’s prior to Ronaldo’s arrival.

 

With Ronaldo on the bench against Liverpool, Fernandes was involved in all aspects of the game. He created a couple of big chances, initially for Anthony Elanga and then for Anthony Martial in the closing stages of the game.

 

The Portugal international made the most of the positional freedom afforded to him and caused a lot of problems for Liverpool with his intelligent movement and passing. Although Ronaldo is a bigger star, Fernandes is clearly the player who makes this team play better football.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Fluidity In Attack

Ronaldo is clearly not a great fit for Erik ten Hag’s system at Manchester United. He was not a good fit for former United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s system either. Love him or hate him, Solskjaer’s Manchester United side played some exciting football in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

A fluid front three, consisting of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Mason Greenwood, serviced by an in-form Fernandes, was deadly on the counter. The forwards kept interchanging positions and this made United very unpredictable.

Against Liverpool, we saw Jadon Sancho and Rashford switching positions and Fernandes making runs through the middle. This fluidity gets curbed with Ronaldo leading the line. He rarely goes out wide and is also not as fast as the other United forwards.

Ronaldo’s movement without the ball is nothing to write home about these days and he is no longer that wiry attacker who can beat defenders with his dribbling skills.

Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial Is A Way More Dynamic Forward Right Now

What was so surprising about Manchester United’s horrific start to the 2022-23 season was the fact that there was a clear dip in their performance levels from pre-season. Anthony Martial’s absence through injury was one of the main reasons why United looked so disjointed and haphazard in the attack.

The Frenchman looked to be in great touch for Ten Hag’s side in pre-season. His hold-up play, dribbling skills, and ability to create space for his teammates made United look intimidating in attack during pre-season.

We saw the same from him in the second half of the win against Liverpool. For their second goal, Martial won the ball back near the halfway line and drove forward with it before releasing Rashford into a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. The Englishman finished off in style to extend Manchester United’s lead to 2-0.

The 26-year-old is a much more dynamic forward more suited to Ten Hag’s style of play and it is very apparent to everyone watching.

Cristiano Ronaldo has quite simply proven to be poor at pressing in recent times. Manchester United manager Ten Hag explained his reason for leaving Ronaldo out of the starting XI against Liverpool shortly after the lineups were released.

 

“We know Liverpool are a really good team and you need to press them. You have to do that out of a block and need energy, that is why we went with Rashford, Sancho, Elanga.”

There, you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth. Ronaldo’s presence in the frontline means that the opposition gets to play out from the back comfortably. This goes against Ten Hag’s style of play and philosophy of winning the ball high up the pitch and pinning the opposition inside their own half.

 

Ronaldo is one of the biggest stars the beautiful game has ever seen. He brings with him a massive amount of media scrutiny and pressure. Ronaldo’s greatness has been underlined by his incredible trophy haul and his teams are expected to outshine and outperform others.

 

He’s not a great fit for a side that’s going through a rebuild of sorts. United are a far cry from the dominant unit they used to be under Sir Alex Ferguson. They are underdogs right now but with a star like Ronaldo on the team sheet, they seldom get treated as per their status.

 

The criticism is often harsh and the level of ridicule when the going gets tough is agonizing. There is too much attention on Ronaldo. The fact that his exclusion from the starting lineup against Liverpool created the most amount of noise in the leadup to the game is a reflection of the same.

 

Ronaldo trying to engineer an exit during the summer paints the club in a poor light. He left the stadium early after being hooked at half-time in the pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano, putting United on the spot again.

 

Ultimately, the environment at the club, which ought to be positive and lighter during this period, continues to remain murky and stressful.

 

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