How Cristiano Ronaldo boosts Man Utd’s title ambitions
Three Premier League games into this second spell at Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo has already demonstrated how he will bolster the club’s title ambitions.
The feel-good factor around his return is one thing, but even the bookies believe his transfer goes further than that. According to SportsBettingDime.com, after signing Ronaldo from Juventus, United now have Premier League title odds of +550.
There has been plenty of talk about Ronaldo’s potentially impact on the dressing room: his team-mates’ refusal to accept dessert after observing that the Portuguese superstar was forgoing his pudding and his role as a morale-boosting talisman around Old Trafford are cited as examples of this.
But his true impact on United’s title hopes could be much simpler. In these early days since his return, Ronaldo is averaging a goal a game. His long-term record suggests he won’t be too far off maintaining that for the duration of the season.
Even if his goalscoring tails off slightly as the season progresses, Ronaldo looks highly likely to become the first United player to score 20 goals in a Premier League season since Robin van Persie in 2012/13. It’s no coincidence that 2012/13 was also the last time United were crowned Premier League champions.
The Red Devils’ top goalscorer in the Premier League last season was Bruno Fernandes with 18 goals. Exactly half of that tally were from the penalty spot. Yes, they all count, but a top goalscorer with nine goals from open play represent a much lesser threat to opposition defences. The next top scorer was Marcus Rashford with 11 Premier League goals.
The previous season Rashford and Anthony Martial were United’s joint top-scorers with 17 goals apiece.
Even an ageing, slower Ronaldo in comparison to the one that left Old Trafford for Real Madrid in 2009 remains one of the biggest goal threats in the world. With pace and creativity elsewhere in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, it is likely to be his unwavering ability to put the ball in the net as much as any totemic qualities that will be the decisive factor if United are to mount a serious title challenge this season.