Kenny Cunningham joined The Football Show on Wednesday to discuss Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo's honeymoon period at Manchester United has come to an end.
Ronaldo is scoring goals. He has five already this season and some have been important goals in big moments. But United are not winning games. They conceded four easy goals against Leicester City in their last Premier League game and have repeatedly given their opponents too much space at every level of the field.
At a time when Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola watch their teams suffocate opponents, Manchester United's players don't press. Ronaldo especially doesn't press.
📊 No Premier League forward playing at least 270 minutes has applied pressure less frequently to an opposing player who is receiving, carrying or releasing the ball than Cristiano Ronaldo, who has done it 2.7 times per 90 minutes on an average so far. [@TheAthleticUK] pic.twitter.com/lY68zKPZ8L
— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) October 1, 2021
By starting Ronaldo, United limit their options. You can't press with one player whose not interested in pressing.
United have more than one player uninterested in pressing but Ronaldo is the leader because of who he is. He's also the worst offender on the field, as revealed this week by The Athletic and by Gary Neville on Sky Sports.
Kenny Cunningham wouldn't start Ronaldo for United. Of course, Cunningham understands why that's a difficult thing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to do but in sheer football terms it makes sense to sit him. Without Ronaldo up top, United could instantly change to become a pressing team.
"That's easily solved when you have Cavani come into the team," Cunningham said.
"You're talking someone who actually has the juice in his legs to go and do that. Maybe has the drive...and has a real good understanding, almost has a defensive mindset. Sometimes you feel with Cavani although he's a center forward when he's out of possession of the ball...that's the other end of the spectrum [to Ronaldo]."
Cunningham doesn't believe that replacing Ronaldo in the starting lineup would solve all of Manchester United's problems. He recognizes that the midfield would be weak regardless of who is starting in front of them.
But Ronaldo's negative is two-fold.
He was signed to score goals this season, rejuvenate the fanbase and maybe inspire some of his teammates. It was a short-term move for a big-name striker. Since United obviously aren't getting that short-term return in the form of results, you are now sacrificing long-term development opportunities for nothing.
Cavani playing alongside Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwod could have been the ideal short and long-term plan without Ronaldo, according to Cunningham.
"When Cavani signed that contract to stay and even when they signed Sancho, I liked the balance on the pitch then for United. As you know, I'm a huge fan of Greenwood. Massive. I think he could be a great player, the best of the lot and for me I'd like to see can he evolve into a center forward. He's got the potential to do that.
"With Cavani staying for the extra year, I thought this was going to help Greenwood. He'd get his gametime playing on the right of the front three but he'll also come in and play a fair quota of the games as a number nine.
"Greenwood would play maybe 10-15 games as a central striker to develop his game. Maybe by the end of the season we'd see if he was the solution for the next 10 years."
Ronaldo isn't going to be the solution for the next 10 years. He doesn't appear to be the solution for this year either.
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