In pictures: Man Utd v Villarreal
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Manchester United had many good performers against Villarreal, despite the team putting in a poor showing overall. David De Gea was one, Jesse Lingard another and Edinson Cavani dazzled in a brief cameo as well. But Cristiano Ronaldo stood up and, now, it begs the question: are they already reliant on the 36-year-old?
Manchester United were, for the most part, outplayed by Villarreal in their European showdown.
But they got the job done. And, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that’s all that matters.
For Ronaldo, playing his first home Champions League game for the club since a 1-0 win over Arsenal back in 2009, it was a fairytale night.
By his own admission, he wasn’t at his best.
“It wasn’t my best, I don’t think I played so good,” he told BT Sport afterwards.
“But sometimes I play good I don’t score, and today I don’t play good so I scored.
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“It’s very important. We knew if we didn’t get three points today it would be tough to go to the next stage. Now, anything is possible.
“This is why I came back, because I missed this club a lot. I made history in this club and I want to do it again.”
But that didn’t matter. Because when it really did, when the heat was reaching boiling levels, he stepped up and delivered.
Now, he’s got five goals from his first six matches. And that’s brilliant, exactly what the club wanted.
However, United may already be reliant on Ronaldo. While that’s no bad thing, it’s still a problem regardless.
They need other players to carry the mantle, to help him out. Instead, there’s now a real risk they’re becoming a one-man band.
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Even for Bruno Fernandes, the goals have started to dry up. No goals from his last five matches means he’s on one of the biggest droughts of his stellar Red Devils career so far.
United have also seen Mason Greenwood’s performances dip in quality since Ronaldo’s return, too.
The England international is being deployed on the wing but while he’ll always be a threat, he doesn’t seem to be the same potent danger he was during the opening few matches of the season.
Jadon Sancho, too, has faltered since his move from Borussia Dortmund.
And United appear more confused than ever when it comes to Paul Pogba, and where the France international’s best performance is.
Now, it’s the Ronaldo show.
But the forward is 36. He can’t play every game, despite his ridiculous physique – that he was all too happy to show off after his late heroics.
Depending on veterans is a dangerous game. One injury to Ronaldo, and United could find themselves with bigger issues at hand.
They do, of course, have a squad full of quality.
But nobody comes close to Ronaldo and his dramatic winner against Villarreal was the sort of goal only he would score, due to being in the right place at the right time.
When Ronaldo was first at the club, they often found it difficult to cope – despite the assets they possessed at the time.
Their slow start to the 2008/2009 season, when the Portugal international was injured, was no coincidence.
And United are now finding themselves putting all their eggs in the Ronaldo basket once again.
Back then, that was enough to win trophies. But will this reliance on him end up being a help or a hindrance?
Only time will tell…
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