The return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United is welcome news for football nostalgics. The Portuguese star returns to his British home, at the club where he emerged and established himself as one of the world’s best players.
Although Ronaldo is not the young winger of yesteryear, someone who was instrumental in open space situations, the player from Madeira has been able to modify his game to maintain the same huge impact for his team.
At the MBP School of Coaches, we are going to explain what version of Cristiano Ronaldo we will see in his next phase of his career back at the Red Devils. Specifically, we will analyze what behaviors he will have to carry out more frequently to adapt to United’s style of play.
The individual characteristics of Ronaldo have evolved over the course of his career. For example, the current player is someone with a better interpretation of the game than 15 years ago, who had heavily enhanced his game through his conditional structure.
Ronaldo has managed to efficiently develop his cognitive structure, understanding how to solve complex tactical situations with a certain ease, not only individually, but also collectively with his teammates.
Another aspect to highlight in his evolution has been his accuracy in front of goal. In his previous spell in Manchester, his highest goal total in a season was 31 in 2007-2008. Since then, Ronaldo has averaged more than 30 goals per season.
United’s new signing has become a specialist in all different types of shooting situations, whether from outside the box or inside the area, consistently showing an ability to place the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach.
There is no doubt that football has undergone a huge evolution since the departure of Ronaldo from United, in 2009. Back then, the tactical discipline of teams, especially in the defensive phase, was not like it is today. Nowadays, it is often very difficult to penetrate the defensive structures of the opposition.
As explained in the individual analysis, the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner has evolved his style of play to enhance the collective. But how should the forward adapt his game to benefit from United’s game model?
Firstly, we must contextualize that United is a team under construction. This is to say, their style of play has been improving little by little under the direction of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, though it has not yet been fully established due to the changes undergone in recent years.
Manchester United employ a direct style of play in attack, often prioritizing their play through the flanks, either from Jadon Sancho or Rashford, to subsequently make crosses into the box. This is where the figure of Ronaldo will become influential. The player is a specialist in this type of finishing thanks to his superior aerial ability.
The second aspect to consider will be how the synergy between Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo is built. The former has become the main force inside the Red Devils, becoming pivotal in the final third thanks to his goalscoring ability and his skill in setting up teammates.
This area is where Ronaldo will have to learn how to take advantage of his teammate’s passing capabilities, being able to make runs in depth, and thus be able to find clear goal-scoring opportunities more often.