Forget the emotion, Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford DOES make sense

Forget the emotion, Cristiano Ronaldo’s return DOES make sense after he outscored and outperformed every Man United attacker last season aged 36… and he LOVES playing against Newcastle

  • All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of second debut against Newcastle  
  • His Man United return is the story of the summer after joining from Juventus 
  • But his impressive goalscoring numbers last season show this was a smart move
  • He outscored every United forward and had a superior minutes per goal ratio
  • Ronaldo also has a superb record against the Magpies ahead of Saturday’s clash 

After the pandemonium had settled down, the question most neutrals had about Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational return to Old Trafford was: ‘Have Manchester United been ruled by their head, or their heart?’

In five months time one of the greatest players to have kicked a ball will turn 37 and, even though the Portuguese superstar still keeps himself in pristine condition, there is no getting away from the fact he is not the Ronaldo he once was.

He might still have incredible technique, and he might still be a fabulous athlete and role model, but he doesn’t have the same pace and can’t have many years left in the tank as he approaches his forties.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s second debut for Manchester United is set to be the story of the weekend 

At the age of 36, Ronaldo is past his prime but has shown he still has plenty to offer United

He outscored all of United’s forwards last season, including Mason Greenwood (left), Edinson Cavani (centre) and Marcus Rashford (right), who had most of all with 21 goals

Is this a statement signing? Yes. Will his arrival from Juventus do wonders for the club’s shirt sales? Of course. But even in the twilight of his stunning career, is he still the best option United have up front? Quite probably. 

The five-time Ballon D’or winner was comfortably Serie A’s top scorer last season, while all of United’s strikers were outscored by their playmaker Bruno Fernandes, whose 18 league strikes were way ahead of Marcus Rashford on 11. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Ronaldo mostly outperformed his new attacking team-mates – especially when it came to putting chances away and keeping a regular flow of goals in constant supply.

He smashed in a total of 36 goals in all competitions – his nearest rival being Rashford, who could only manage 21 overall, with Edinson Cavani on 17, Mason Greenwood on 12 and Anthony Martial on a lowly seven.

Ronaldo was top scorer of Serie A last term with 36 goals, with a superb goals per minute ratio 

Cavani and Rashford were United’s best attackers last season but were far less clinical than Ronaldo, who put away 29 big chances in what was a below-par season overall for Juventus

He netted 29 of those when presented with a big chance, while Cavani and Rashford were United’s most clinical players on 14 each.

The truth is, as Ronaldo has gotten older, his goalscoring stats have shown no real signs of slowing down, highlighted by an impressive minutes per goal ratio last season of 104.2 – far and away the best of any United forward. 

The best offering from a Red Devils player was Cavani on 262.3, with Martial’s struggles evident as he only managed a rate of 345.6.

The Uruguayan showed that, like Ronaldo, he still has plenty to give into his mid-thirties as he fired in three braces across the season, as well as five assists. However, Ronaldo gazumped that effort with 10 braces, five assists and one hat-trick.

Ronaldo netted 21 times from open play and scored a total of 10 braces and one hat-trick

Sofascore show off Ronaldo’s 2020-21 stats

United have often been accused of being ‘penalty merchants’ over the years – with Fernandes slotting in nine from the spot last season. He’ll have a fight on his hands to keep hold of that duty, with Ronaldo scoring nine of his own last season – but United’s new star man offers much more from open play.

He scored 21 times from open play, one more than Rashford on 20, with Cavani on 14 – so United will add even more of a threat outside of their set-pieces.

We know Ronaldo as a brilliant free kick taker with powerful shooting and accuracy – although his precision wasn’t as good as previous years in the 2020-21 campaign.

He failed to score from a dead ball situation and with a shooting accuracy of 59.9 per cent, it was only enough to better Mason Greenwood’s total of 54.2 per cent.

Rashford had the best accuracy when it came to shots with 68.1 per cent, with Martial on 63.3 per cent and Cavani just ahead of Ronaldo on 60.4 per cent. 

His shot conversion rate, meanwhile, was the third best when compared to United’s attackers at 16.8 per cent. Cavani was the king in that department with 28.3 per cent, followed by Rashford’s 17.1 per cent.

As we know, Ronaldo is hungry for goals and likes to take a lot of shots, meaning his accuracy is likely to suffer as a result – but the stats show that eventually he will make his mark. While carving out a reputation as a fearsome goal-getter, Ronaldo has also turned provider throughout his career and it was no different last season.

Rashford had the best shooting accuracy over Ronaldo, as well as a better shot conversion rate

Greenwood (left) and Anthony Martial (right) were arguably United’s worst performing strikers 

Ronaldo’s shooting stats were down on his usual best, but he still creates plenty of chances

He created 48 chances for Juventus across the board, nearly double what most of United’s frontmen could offer – although it was Rashford who trumped him by setting up 62 opportunities for his team-mates. 

With Rashford proving deadly in front of goal but also dangerous at creating chances, it surely points to the England international being fielded on the left wing alongside the more clinical Ronaldo up top as a No 9. 

All of these figures will have United fans salivating as he prepares for his second debut against Newcastle, and the Toon Army might want to look away now while we go through his record against the Magpies – which is alarmingly good.

Ronaldo has played 11 times against Newcastle during his first stint at United, and was never on the losing side. In fact, he only failed to taste victory on one occasion, which was a 2-2 draw in 2007.

He has managed six goals against them, including five assists – and the 2007-08 campaign was one in particular that Newcastle fans will be keen to banish to the backs of their minds.

Ronaldo has an impressive record against Newcastle as he prepares to face the Magpies

His return to Old Trafford has won over the fans and boosted shirt sales – but United will hugely benefit from his presence on the pitch

It saw Ronaldo net a hat-trick in a 6-0 thumping at Old Trafford before he netted two more and grabbed an assist in the reverse fixture at St James’ Park, masterminding a 5-1 romp. 

There will be a lot of emotion on show at Old Trafford this weekend from the very fans who worshipped the legendary Portuguese star the first time around – and it will feel as though nothing has changed as he takes to the pitch.

Ronaldo isn’t getting any younger and you can believe that this was more than just a footballing decision for the club. He is a brand on his own and bringing him back is a huge commercial triumph, while his influence on the team will be undeniable.

But this not just a signing to please the romantics or indulge nostalgia – Ronaldo is still capable of weekly brilliance and still has the quality to springboard the team towards success. If his last season with Juventus is anything to go by, there is plenty more to come from United’s returning No 7.

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