Ronaldo isn’t Man Utd’s problem – he’s the only one keeping them afloat



Match statistics: Atalanta 2-2 Manchester United

“Cristiano is incredible. That’s just what he does.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is right, and don’t Manchester United fans know it.

Ronaldo’s third successive late Champions League show keeps United on track for a place in the knockout stages, while also lifting the pressure slightly on Solskjaer – at least for a few days.

This time it was an equaliser to end Atalanta’s dreams of a famous victory in Bergamo, but given the state of Group F after four matchdays it is as important as his previous late interventions at Old Trafford in the competition so far.

“What more can you say about this guy Cristiano Ronaldo?” posed United legend Rio Ferdinand in the BT Sport studio immediately after full-time “He just turns up when the team is in need.”

One thing that probably cannot be said for a little while, is that Ronaldo is the problem holding Manchester United back.

In fact, he is just about the only person keeping them afloat right now.

Having already finished off an outrageous team move late in the first half to peg the game back to 1-1 following Josip Ilicic’s opener, it was Ronaldo who then found the ball dropping out of the air onto his right foot in the first minute of second-half stoppage time with the game 2-1 to the Serie A outfit.

Just as he did against Tottenham on Saturday, Ronaldo caught his volley sweetly, the ball arrowing into the bottom corner to silence the raucous home crowd.

It was, as Solskjaer put it in a number of his post-match television interviews, the kind of moment Michael Jordan became known for at the Chicago Bulls.

Yet while Jordan was the leader of a team that created NBA dynasties, Ronaldo is proving to be a moments man, rather than someone who looks likely to drag his team to trophies upon trophies. That is not, though, soley his fault.

Yes, Ronaldo being at United brings selection and tactical headaches for Solskjaer, but life would be a lot easier for the under-fire Norwegian if his players were not making basic errors on a weekly basis.

David de Gea for both goals and Harry Maguire for the second – scored by Duvan Zapata – were the main culprits here, although they may not have been the worst performers on the pitch in a red shirt.

That honour – if you can call it that – can probably be bestowed on Paul Pogba, named in the starting line-up for the first time since his red card in the infamous Liverpool demolition.

With two more games to run on his Premier League suspension, this was the chance Pogba needed to prove why United should be desperate to extend his contract and keep him at the club past this summer.

He failed to take it, and time will tell regarding how many more he will get. He was passive, sloppy in possession and gave the ball away in crucial areas before eventually being substituted midway through the second half.

Solskjaer had called on his dressing room leaders to step up in the wake of that Liverpool loss, but Pogba – for all he has a big personality – was not one of those.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous on a weekly basis, he sums up where United are at right now and what they may need to move away from going forward if they are to sustain any kind of success.

Ronaldo, on the other hand, clearly remains someone that Solskjaer can rely upon to deliver.

As the Portuguese icon took questions pitchside after full-time, he could be seen putting his finger to his lips to shush a group of Atalanta fans who were goading him.

This was another message to the haters. Ronaldo is not Manchester United’s current problem – he is their saviour. And Solskjaer’s.





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