Former Manchester United striker Michael Owen has blasted the club over their lack of support for Cristiano Ronaldo, suggesting that the Portuguese superstar has been set up to fail in recent weeks by the team’s tactics.
Despite scoring 10 goals in 15 appearances since returning to the Theatre of Dreams over the summer, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo was left on the bench for Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge by United interim manager Michael Carrick.
When he did come on just after the hour mark, Ronaldo frequently cut a lone figure, with little back-up in attack from a defensively-minded United formation.
The 36-year-old was left to feed on scraps as Carrick opted for a safety-first midfield trio of Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matić, a state of affairs that Owen took major issue with.
Speaking to Premier League Productions following the match, the ex-England frontman insisted that the overly-defensive mindset was a waste of Ronaldo’s talents – and even claimed that it borders on “abuse”.
When asked if he himself would be want to play in United’s current system, Owen didn’t hold back, declaring: “No, you can’t!
“We were at Old Trafford for the City game the other day and all of a sudden it’s just exactly the same they leave Cristiano Ronaldo up front on his own. That’s almost abuse,” he stated, per The Metro.
“Having someone that good in your team and then playing everyone defensively and saying ‘That’s alright we’ll just hope he nicks a goal’ he’ll end up being average.”
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Owen’s sympathies extend to other creative forces within the United ranks, such as Bruno Fernandes and (the currently injured) Paul Pogba, reasoning that the more they are prevented from expressing themselves, the worse their performances will become.
“If you leave him and all these good players or just two of them playing and everyone else defending they’ll start putting in bad performances because they’ve got nobody to pass to, they’ve got no options, they’re chipping the ball from 50 yards away. They need other players to come up and help them.
“It’s almost abusing the good players they’ve got and that’s the last thing you’ve got to do. If anything, expose the rubbish! Find ways of getting world-class players in your team, get Pogba, get Fernandes, get Ronaldo, get them playing as best as you can.
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“If you let a few goals in because Bailly’s not great or Wan-Bissaka or whoever it may be then fine you can replace them but at the minute because they’re nervous and scared they just bulk up with sitting midfielders and more defenders and abuse the great players up front leaving half of them on the bench and one or two to play, they’ve got no chance,” concluded Owen.
The sight of a frustrated Ronaldo storming down the tunnel at the end of the Chelsea clash suggests that he’s in full agreement with the above assessment.
Inevitably, United’s tactics will receive a major shake-up with new boss Ralf Rangnick now confirmed to be in charge at Old Trafford until the end of the season. Whether the appointment of the outspoken German is a positive for Ronaldo’s role within the side remains to be seen.