MANCHESTER (England): Manchester United may not have won their first game since Cristiano Ronaldo was banned from the squad, but Saturday’s 1-1 draw at chelsea seemed to confirm the belief that they are better off without the individualistic superstar.
Although they needed a 94th-minute strike from Casemiro to salvage a point, United dominated for much of the game and looked much more consistent without the five-time World Player of the Year.
Ronaldo, who was ordered to train alone by coach Erik ten Hag since leaving the 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur early, he has started just two Premier League games this season, the 4-0 thrashing of Brentford and the 0-0 draw with Newcastle United.
In United’s most impressive wins this season against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, the 37-year-old played a grand total of 36 minutes.
His only defining moment came when he scored the 2-1 winning goal at Everton after Ten Hag was forced to turn to him when Anthony Martial went down with the injury.
It was his 700th goal in club football and the type of clinical finish that few of his teammates are capable of.
Ronaldo’s moments of brilliance, however, are becoming increasingly rare. Even in the Europa League, where he started all four games against mediocre opponents such as Sheriff Tiraspol and Omonia Nicosia, he only scored once, and that was a penalty.
Ronaldo was United’s top scorer last season with 18 of the team’s 57 Premier League goals after returning to Old Trafford to much fanfare 12 years after his trophy-laden spell with the club.
However, they also suffered a series of humiliating defeats such as the 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool and 4-1 to Watford and finished sixth in the Premier League. In the season before his arrival, they finished second and scored 73 goals.
Ten Hag’s predecessors Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick didn’t have the power to frequently leave Ronaldo out of the squad, but the Dutchman has been ruthless with him and United now have to decide what to do with their famous striker.
They haven’t received any serious offers for him this summer and although offers may come in January, the best way to ensure he leaves is to terminate his contract, which would cost the club around £10m. according to the media.
An argument against Ronaldo’s release is the lack of other attacking options, with Martial being so injury-prone, Marcus Rashford missing a glut of clear chances lately and big-under signing Jadon Sancho still fails to deliver.
But if they want advice they could turn to Arsenal, who in January took a financial hit to part ways with former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after breaching coach Mikel Arteta’s disciplinary code.
Arteta, who also sent Mesut Ozil out before the end of his contract, guided Arsenal to the top of the Premier League and there is now a tangible atmosphere of solidarity within the club.
United are showing signs of a similar revival under Ten Hag and it is becoming increasingly clear that the best way to reach their potential is to rally behind the manager, not their decorated but shrinking striker.

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