Forget Champions League, Ronaldo Isn’t Good Enough To Start In The Europa League At The Moment

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts against Chelsea.

REUTERS/David Klein

Erik ten Hag’s call to make wholesale changes didn’t work as Manchester United lost their opening Europa League match against Real Sociedad.

The Spanish outfit didn’t have to do much to record their first win over an English opponent. Their match-winning goal came through a questionable penalty decision after the ball deflected off Lisandro Martinez’s body onto his hand.

The VAR’s failure to overturn the referee’s call was frustrating, but Ten Hag’s selection and game-management didn’t help his side’s cause either. The decision to deploy Fred as a number 10, withdraw Christian Eriksen at half-time, and leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch until the end all backfired.

To Ten Hag’s credit, he has shown he’s not afraid to take bold decisions, and has resisted starting Ronaldo in five of United’s first six Premier League outings. He has also regularly benched captain Harry Maguire.

However, against Sociedad, the Dutchman tinkered with his frontline, benching Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford in favour of Anthony Elanga and Ronaldo, and was made to pay for his experiment.

Elanga didn’t provide Sancho’s vision and composure in the final third, while Ronaldo justified the Dutchman’s decision to overlook him in the league by delivering a dreadful performance.

United looked disjointed going forward with Ronaldo as their striker. He had a first-half goal ruled out for offside because of his poor positioning.

The 37-year-old clearly didn’t relish the first Europa League appearance of his career and got worse as the game progressed. He looked to be in discomfort towards the end and should’ve been hooked by Ten Hag.

 

 

However, there’s one positive Ten Hag could take home from that Ronaldo performance. He won’t be questioned for putting the superstar back on the bench for a league game anytime soon.

And if Sociedad’s performance is anything to go by, Ronaldo isn’t ready to start in the Europa League either. Pretty ironic situation for the player who pushed to depart Old Trafford in order to play in the Champions League.