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Ronaldo brings an Achilles-like feeling back to Manchester United

Signing Cristiano Ronaldo is only feeding into Manchester United's Achilles-like arrogance, yet e...

Enda Coll
Enda Coll

18:22 30 Aug 2021



Ronaldo brings an Achilles-lik...
Soccer

Ronaldo brings an Achilles-like feeling back to Manchester United

Enda Coll
Enda Coll

18:22 30 Aug 2021

Signing Cristiano Ronaldo is only feeding into Manchester United's Achilles-like arrogance, yet everyone can see their fatal flaw, writes OTB's Enda Coll.

As Manchester United limped to an unimpressive 1-0 win away to Wolves on Sunday, I was reminded of the story of the Greek Warrior Achilles.

In Greek mythology, Achilles was the greatest of warriors. Dipped in the river Styx - the river connecting the Earth to the underworld - by his mother, he was invincible bar the one part of his body which didn’t touch the water, his heel.

While most people know the story of his heel, that wasn’t the only change the dip in the river made to Achilles.

The river made internal changes too. While the heel was Achilles’ external flaw, the river also exposes an internal flaw, in Achilles’ case it was his arrogance.

Manchester United's fatal flaws

ronaldo Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures to the fans after the UEFA Europa League final, at Gdansk Stadium, Poland. Picture date: Wednesday May 26, 2021.

For Manchester United, their external flaw is their midfield.

With Scott McTominay now injured, Solskjaer changed the shape of his team at the weekend and opted for just one holding midfielder, Fred.

To say he had a poor game would be incredibly kind. Adama Traore had the freedom of the pitch at the weekend and had Raul Jimenez been more clinical, the home side could have scored at least twice.

In the game, Fred lost eight of the 12 duels he was involved in, failed in both tackles he attempted, and only intercepted the ball twice.

Compare this with someone like Wilfred Ndidi for Leicester City, who won eight out of his 12 duels, won three out of four tackle attempts and intercepted the ball three times.

As well as failing at the basics of his own job, the impact Fred has on the team is clear to see. It’s no coincidence that the first game of the season Paul Pogba is asked to play in a deeper lying role is also the game he had the least effect on.

Over the course of his tenure at the helm of the club, Solskjaer has made an array of changes to the squad, but his inability to solve or perhaps even see the team’s biggest weakness is cause for concern.

Signing Ronaldo

Manchester United's Paul Pogba after the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester Manchester United's Paul Pogba after the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Paul Ellis/PA Wire/PA Images

On the Sky Sports coverage of the game, Roy Keane provided a moment of brilliance at halftime when asked about the lacklustre display.

“It’s like they’re trying to get by on talent alone”. Keane said in his usual bewildered tone.

Generally, his usual dismay at the lack of ‘workrate’ or ‘character’ within the United team can fall flat for me. But within this he had spotted Manchester United’s internal flaw.

Alex Ferguson dipped the club in the river Styx and with his management skills, he made the club an unstoppable force. Their reputation alone got them through games they otherwise would have lost.

One of Achilles’ biggest strengths was his reputation. At the sheer mention of his name, opponents would quiver in fear and the battle was won before it had begun. This is how it was for Manchester United for a long period.

When Ferguson left, most of this was lost. The became reliant on reputation alone.

In the past few years under Solskjaer, the squad has been rebuilt and the signing of Ronaldo could propel United back to the very top.

The final piece of the puzzle could well have been found. Or like Achilles, the feeling of invincibility this signing will bring may prove fatal.

His signing could speed up a process of unravelling at the club, putting further pressure on Solskjaer to prove himself as a top-level coach who can solve tactical issues.

Ronaldo brings an Achilles-like arrogance to United, but the smarter teams will simply target their heel.

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