Man Utd fans snap up Ronaldo shirts at Old Trafford
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Manchester United are dependant on Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s a problem, even if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t admit it. And being reliant on a 36-year-old, even one as good as this, speaks volumes about this current Red Devils team and where they’re at.
Manchester United were poor in the first half against Atalanta, falling 2-0 down after goals from Mario Palasic and Merih Demiral.
But, after the break, came the blockbuster comeback.
United exploded into life following the interval, with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire dragging them level.
Then, in the closing stages, came Ronaldo time. Once again, the Portugal international made the difference.
It had been a similar story weeks previously when he popped up with the winner against Villarreal, that time in the 95th minute.
And Ronaldo replicated those heroics on Wednesday, rising to head home a pinpoint cross from Luke Shaw to secure all three points.
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The night, again, belonged to the veteran.
United are a disjointed, quite frankly bizarre team. They have the individuals to dominate football, but they rarely dominate games.
This is a night to enjoy, let’s make clear. Results have been bad of late so winning a Champions League match, in such dramatic circumstances, is something to savour.
But the brutal fact of the matter is that Ronaldo is the latest individual to paper over the cracks.
And Paul Scholes is right. If they play like this against Liverpool on Sunday, in their crunch Premier League clash at Old Trafford, it won’t have a happy ending.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United have relied on individuals to carry the team and ensure they don’t fall further down the pecking order of the English giants.
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Under David Moyes, Wayne Rooney was a shining light.
Under Louis van Gaal, it was a combination of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial who stopped the club from declining further.
Jose Mourinho had Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and then Romelu Lukaku, come to his aid on multiple occasions.
And while Solskjaer has previously been reliant on Bruno Fernandes, the torch has now passed to Ronaldo again.
However, United need their other players to perform.
Rashford’s display was encouraging, with the England international now scoring twice in as many games since his return from injury.
Fernandes was unplayable in the second half, while Maguire recovered from a shaky start to rise to the fore.
But, the midfielder, Rashford and Ronaldo aside, there are still too many question marks over the other assets in this team.
Take Aaron Wan-Bissaka, for example.
His bombarding up the flank in the second half was a joy to watch but the Crystal Palace star is still short of composure when it comes to playing the right pass.
Victor Lindelof’s poor defending in the build-up to Atalanta’s opener caused Mike Phelan to turn around in disgust, such was his frustration with the Sweden international.
If Scott McTominay is to ever justify being picked ahead of Paul Pogba, he needs to avoid being so easily passed in the middle of the park like he was on Tuesday.
And Mason Greenwood, while outstanding this season, still has to find a way of being consistent over the course of a whole game rather than in patches.
United being reliant on a golden oldie like Ronaldo is a worrying sign.
But that won’t matter to Solskjaer.
However, if they lose to Liverpool on Sunday, scrutiny and scepticism will still very much remain.
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