We all loved Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher’s fiery debate on Sunday surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s role at Manchester United, didn’t we?
Keane insisted that Ronaldo had been brought in to score goals and win United some silverware, while Carragher claimed that the 36-year-old should not be an automatic starter as he does not press from the front any more.
Does the former Liverpool defender have a point? Is Ronaldo putting in enough of a shift without the ball? And how do his statistics compare to his teammates?
Well, with the help of Statsbomb via FBref, The Athletic have compiled a list of United’s best pressers in the Premier League so far this season to have played at least 270 minutes, and it makes for fascinating reading.
Top of the pile is Fred, who has completed 26.2 pressures per 90 minutes in 2021/22. The Brazilian midfielder has often become a scapegoat at Old Trafford in recent years, but the numbers suggest that he puts in the hard yards when out of possession.
Meanwhile, things don’t look so great for Ronaldo. He has managed just 5.2 pressures per 90 minutes – only central defender Victor Lindelof (4.5) has less.
The big question is…what will newly-appointed interim manager Ralf Rangnick make of all this?
Who could become a Rangnick favourite?
Rangnick is famed for wanting his team to put the opposition under pressure high up the pitch by using the so-called Gegenpress, so he will be looking for players who can help him implement this strategy.
Arguably, the biggest shock on this list is Paul Pogba, whose numbers have only been bettered by Fred. The Frenchman is known for his ability to pick a pass rather than his work rate, but it seems that he does actually fight to win the ball back regularly during matches, which often goes unnoticed.
He is currently injured until 2022, and is out of contract next summer, but Rangnick may want to give him a chance to impress when he returns to his best condition.
The German coach has also sung the praises of Jadon Sancho in the past, and the 21-year-old places inside the top four on this list. His United career has got off to a stuttering start, but two goals in his last two games is a step in the right direction, and he looks set to be offered more opportunities by Rangnick moving forward.
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Who may fall out of favour under Rangnick?
Ronaldo’s statistics immediately catch the eye. Now into his mid-thirties, it is understandable that he has to conserve his energy, but these numbers are still pretty damning.
With United losing five of their last eight league games, they cannot afford to be carrying any passengers at the moment. It appears that if Ronaldo doesn’t score, he is not offering a great deal to the team, and Rangnick probably won’t accept that.
Mason Greenwood is another player who may be worried about his place in the team following Rangnick’s arrival. The youngster has already scored four league goals this term, including a stunning strike against Leicester last month.
However, his pressing numbers pale in comparison to the ones produced by Sancho and Bruno Fernandes, so if Rangnick wants a frontline who will work just as hard off the ball as they do on it, Greenwood could start to be left out regularly.
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