Manchester United would be better off without Cristiano Ronaldo despite all he brings to the Premier League, according to Jamie Carragher.
It has been a summer of change at Old Trafford with Erik ten Hag taking charge at the same time of a max exodus, particularly in midfield with Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard all leaving.
Ten Hag has also been busy trying to build his new squad, signing Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia, with the Red Devils also linked with a move for Frenkie de Jong. But a lot of the summer has been dominated by the future of Cristiano Ronaldo.
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According to reports, Ronaldo wants to leave this summer, partly due to Man Utd’s failure to qualify for the Champions League – the first season he would not be at Europe’s top table since 2002/03 when he was coming through at Sporting CP. The Portuguese forward has already been linked with a move to the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, but all have taken themselves out of the running.
When players started coming back from their holidays at the start of pre-season, Ronaldo did not immediately return, given an extended break for family reasons.
As a result, Ronaldo missed Man Utd’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, but eventually returned to Carrington at the end of July and played in the friendly against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford, greeted by cheers.
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However, Ronaldo remains determined to leave Man Utd, and former Liverpool defender Carragher believes they may be better off letting him go.
“I’ve been critical of the Ronaldo signing since he came in and I said that Ten Hag should really be moving on from that,” he said on Sky Sports’ Friday Night Football.
“I know it is easier said than done to move a player out but really, we want him to stay because we talk about him, and he provides headlines. He’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
“We’ve got some of the best players, the biggest names and managers in Klopp and Guardiola, and Ronaldo is one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name because of the player he’s been in the past and what he’s done and achieved.
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“So, really looking at it from an analytical point of view at Man Utd, I think they would be better without him and almost starting afresh with a younger team.”
Last season in the Premier League, Ronaldo played 30 times for Man Utd, scoring 18 goals, one of just two Red Devils players to hit double figures alongside Bruno Fernandes (10). With Ronaldo on the pitch, Man Utd won 46.7% of their Premier League matches last season, compared to 25% without (including three games before he signed). In fact, Man Utd did not win a game without Ronaldo in their team after he returned to Old Trafford, losing three times.
But it isn’t as simple as that. While Ronaldo is a certified match-winner, he does hamper Man Utd’s pressing, which will be key under Ten Hag and there is less fluidity in attack. There is also the point of Ronaldo’s brand being the biggest focus at times, which could be a distraction for a Man Utd side now trying to get back into the Champions League.
And Carragher had his punditry hat on when adding: “But, in terms of our job and what we do, covering the big names and talking points, he is an absolute superstar. He’s a mega star.
“If he plays at the weekend we’ll all be focussing on him and analysing his performance, his body language and what he’s like with the manager on the side of the pitch.
“He’s a huge story and that is why in some ways you want to keep him in the Premier League.”