London ball

Comparing Cristiano Ronaldo’s two spells at Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of Manchester United’s squad against Chelsea this weekend after his early exit to Tottenham added to his troubled season.

The Portuguese great remained a Manchester United player after a summer of speculation over his future, but barely started games under Erik ten Hag and was revealed on Thursday to have left Old Trafford before the end of Wednesday’s win over Tottenham.

Here, the PA news agency assesses Ronaldo’s impact during his second spell with United and how he compares to his first.

Shooting star

Cristiano Ronaldo has a goal attempt against Newcastle (Martin Rickett/PA)

The final three seasons of Ronaldo’s first stint at Old Trafford, in which he scored twice the league goals each year and peaked at 31 in 2007-08, saw him average almost six shots per 90 minutes.

That elated figure – which he surpassed in some seasons with Real Madrid but matches long-time rival Lionel Messi’s most prolific shooting seasons and surpasses any mark achieved by Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski – translated into his goal. account, thanks to converting almost 10% of his shots in 2006-07 and 2008-09, when he scored 17 and 18 league goals respectively.

The leap past 30 in 2007-08 came on a nearly 18% conversion percentage – and on 174 shots, down slightly from 180-plus in each side’s seasons.

In his first season he needed a similar conversion rate (16.4%) just to reach 18 league goals, and he’s taken just 126 shots and just four per 90 minutes since his return.

change style

Cristiano Ronaldo runs with the ball at Fulham in 2009
Ronaldo is no longer the dribble winger from his first spell in England (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Ronaldo’s success is the incompatibility between an increasingly static ‘number nine’ and Ten Hag’s demanding pressure system.

Having made a name for himself as a teenage winger after arriving from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, Ronaldo gradually took on more of a finishing role and, following his move to Real Madrid in 2009, became a hardcore centre-forward – and this is reflected in his level of involvement in the game and the nature of his contributions.

After approaching 2,000 total touches in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Premier League seasons, he exceeded that threshold in 2008-09 and averaged 2,018 touches for those three campaigns – the first for which these data is available on the league’s official website.

Last season, by contrast, he was on the ball just 1,237 times in the league – in slightly less playing time, but the difference of around 300 minutes, or 11 per cent, to his average season before. to leave is minimal compared to the almost 40% drop in participation.

On top of this season, nine per cent of Ronaldo’s touches since returning to the club have been shots, up slightly from 8.9 per cent in his prolific seasons before he left.

More noticeable, however, is the increase in overruns which now make up over 70% of his hits, up from 58.5% before he left. The combined figure rose from 67.4% to 79.9%, describing Ronaldo as a passing or shooting focal point in a system based on fluid movement and high energy.


Cristiano Ronaldo, left, with manager Erik ten Hag after being substituted against Newcastle
Cristiano Ronaldo with manager Erik ten Hag after being substituted against Newcastle (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ronaldo’s goals took United to 14 points last season, nearly a quarter of their tally of 58 and a tally surpassed only by his 31-goal season 14 years prior, when his effort was worth 19 points.

He scored nearly 42% of United’s 57 league goals, beating 40% for the second time after 2007-08, and his effect on their winning percentage was striking.

United have won 14 of Ronaldo’s 27 starts, 51.9% – and although that percentage is the lowest of his United career, their win rate has dropped to 18.2% in games he hasn’t not started. They average 1.70 points per game with him in the XI, compared to 1.09 without.

Starting on the bench in wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester, Arsenal and even Everton, in which he came on before half-time and scored the decisive goal, sets up a different story this season.

Ronaldo’s only league starts this term have come in the draw with Newcastle and the humiliating 4-0 loss to Brentford, giving United an average of 0.50 points in those games to 2.25 with Ronaldo not in the XI.