Manchester United have been rocked by the news that Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave the club in the summer transfer window. The Portuguese forward has told the club about his desire to leave if an appropriate offer comes in (as per The Athletic), as he isn’t satisfied with how things are going at Old Trafford.
Things are simple for Ronaldo. He wants to play in the Champions League next season rather than the Europa League. Knowing he is in the final stretch of his career, the 37-year-old wants to play for a team capable of fighting for major titles. He doesn’t believe United can provide that platform anymore.
For the Red Devils, losing their top scorer from last season won’t be easy. It can cause their centre-forward options to fall precipitously below other contenders in the Premier League. But it cold also have certain upsides.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the positives and negatives of a hypothetical sale.
Reasons to Keep
No natural centre-forward options to fall back on after Ronaldo
The biggest issue is that United are currently suffering a lack of options at the No. 9 position. Ronaldo is the only natural elite centre-forward in the first-team squad, with Anthony Martial the only other meaningful alternative.
With Edinson Cavani already gone, Ronaldo remains United’s main source for scoring goals. There is no elite finisher in their squad anymore, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho operating better as wing-forwards than centre-forwards.
This is a major reason why United need to convince Cristiano to stay one more season. Buying a potential replacement for him can be extremely expensive and exhaust their summer transfer budget. The Red Devils will need to hope Ronaldo stays and can lead the line as well as score many goals for them in the upcoming campaign.
Ronaldo’s elite mentality
United can’t afford to lose the kind of winning mentality Ronaldo inspires. The Portuguese forward is a winner, having won league titles in England, Italy and Spain as well as five Champions League titles in his career.
He oozes confidence and knows how to motivate his teammates into winning games through adversity. The 37-year-old is a natural-born winner and the United players love being with someone like him.
If they lose Ronaldo, the Red Devils will also lose a locker room leader and someone who knows how to win under any condition. They’re unlikely to be able to replace those qualities, which is why the club remains hesitant about selling him.
Reasons to Sell
Selling him can help the younger players flourish
There have been murmurs that Ronaldo’s arrival has had a negative impact on the development of some of the younger United players. Being the demanding player he is, Cristiano craves the attention that comes with leading a team’s attack. He puts pressure on teammates to create chances for him.
This didn’t sit well with some players last season. The likes of Sancho and Rashford had underwhelming campaign’s while feeling the pressure of playing with Ronaldo.
Perhaps if Cristiano is gone, they can play with more freedom and in a more adventurous fashion. Without the overwhelming burden of having to create chances for one of the greatest of all time, they might play with more confidence. There is a strong chance that if Ronaldo is sold, some of the younger attacking players might become more prolific.
Questions around his adaptability to new system
With the arrival of Erik ten Hag, the way United play on the pitch will change considerably. The Dutch manager prefers a more possession-heavy style in which his players are instructed to create quick-passing attacking moves.
There are certain doubts about whether a 37-year-old Ronaldo can adapt to this system. Ten Hag demands his forwards be extremely fast and boast quick-fire reaction timing to get the attacking moves right. This can’t really be expected from a player with his best years behind him, irrespective of how fit and raring Ronaldo is.
If Ronaldo leaves, Ten Hag can play younger, more flexible forwards in his frontline and train them to implement his tactics perfectly on the pitch.