Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of pressing was apparently causing issues for Manchester United?
What a weird period that was.
The 36-year-old’s biggest impact has been felt with his goals – he’s scored 14 in all competitions since returning to Old Trafford – but against West Ham on Saturday, it was a different story.
Ronaldo frequently dropped deep to collect the ball and it was from this position that he contributed to Marcus Rashford’s last-ditch winner.
Retrieving the ball from Ryan Frederick’s misjudged header, Ronaldo drove forward before passing to Anthony Martial, who teed up Edinson Cavani.
Cavani squared for Rashford and the United striker did the rest.
Ronaldo’s link-up play was key
We don’t often speak about Ronaldo’s link-up play but it was noticeable on Saturday.
Defenders are drawn to the Portuguese star and that frees up space elsewhere on the pitch.
Martial and Cavani exploited that against the Hammers when they came together to create the goal.
A compilation video of Ronaldo dropping deep and linking up play has now emerged and it makes for interesting viewing.
The United forward was a genuine playmaker, coming to collect the ball from various positions on the pitch before finding a teammate.
He looked very comfortable in this role, too.
We’ve seen Ronaldo the winger and Ronaldo the out-and-out striker. Is it time for Ronaldo the advanced playmaker?
Given how effective he was against West Ham, don’t be surprised to see Ronaldo in these positions more often.
Man United fans react
The video has sparked a lot of reaction from Man United supporters weighing in with their opinion on the club’s Reddit page.
“It’s not something I’d noticed before, but the thing that really jumps out for me here about Ronaldo is just how perfect his passing is. Every ball is straight to a teammate,” one fan wrote.
Another said: “He has been very effective in the last two games, dropping deep and helping in build up play. Proof that he is the goat as he is doing what is required for the team atm.”
A third added: “Yes these are the highlights I was waiting for. As I said during the game, Ronaldo created chances today from the left and right playing in Bruno’s position.”
West Ham spotted Ronaldo’s positioning
West Ham noticed what Ronaldo was doing but they couldn’t stop him.
Samuel Luckhurst, chief Man United report for the Manchester Evening News, overheard one of an analyst speaking about Ronaldo’s impact just before his involvement in the goal.
Luckhurst wrote on Twitter: “One of the West Ham analysts said deep into the second-half: ‘Ronaldo in that pocket is killing us again.’
“Watching the goal back, he’s in that area and draws two players towards him, freeing up room down the left for Martial and Cavani.”
Another evolution in Ronaldo’s evolution would be mightily impressive.