Salah and Ronaldo at Liverpool and Man Utd compared as result is clear

It was about as typical a Mohamed Salah goal as you could wish to see.

With RB Leipzig doing much more to engage Liverpool in the type of game they want to be involved in than most sides they've faced in recent weeks, the Reds knew that they could set a trap for their key man.

They sprang, pressing Marcel Sabitzer and the ball wasn't even in the net before the Austrian had raised his hands to his head in dismay. Salah. 1-0.

Given everything that has gone on in recent weeks it was a crucial 'away' goal for Liverpool in their quest to both progress in the Champions League and hurl their great steam train of a season back onto the tracks.

But there was something more to it too.

Salah is a man who is acutely away of his statistics and records, and he probably wouldn't have been too unhappy to have been told that he equalled another great player's tally for an English side with his latest strike.

He's now on 118 Liverpool goals in 186 appearances for the Reds, the same number of strikes as Cristiano Ronaldo managed in his entire Manchester United career.

Only Ronaldo needed 106 more games to reach that number.

Now for some that might be all you want to know. We could tweet that statistic, get equal parts praise and abuse, and then move on.

But we all know that there are differing paths that both players took to reach that number of goals.

There are also similarities to the pair though, as well as a few hints that Salah, the younger man by over seven years, could be set for a similar career sustaining his levels at the top.

The slow starts, comparatively

If you're looking for the real reason behind the disparity in numbers then it largely lies in the fact that Ronaldo arrived at United as an 18-year-old wide man with big dreams and bigger stepovers.

He scored just six goals in his first season at United and nine in his second, but they were campaigns in which Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney ruled the striking roost at Old Trafford.

With David Beckham having departed, Ronaldo – who had inherited Beckham's No.7 shirt – was still looked to as a traditional winger. He would eventually change the game, but just not yet.

By the time Salah arrived at Anfield in 2017 he had just turned 25.

He had been fairly stung by a failure at Chelsea as a younger man, but goals in Italy had showed there was promise there. He'd be a decent backup to Sadio Mane, if nothing else.

Yet he started fairly slowly too.

There were concerns over a lack of a ruthless edge, both for Salah and the team, by the time of a goalless draw with Manchester United two months into his Reds career.

He had scored six goals in his first 12 Liverpool games, but he wasn't yet being viewed as a relentless goal-getter.

That would have to wait.

The ridiculous season

Ronaldo's goals return crept up and up in his next two United years, with 12 in his third season and then 23 in his fourth as the transformation from wide man to main goalscoring threat became well-rounded.

Then came 2007/08.

Playing in a brilliant United side, perhaps the last great one, Ronaldo formed the deadliest member of an attacking trio along with Rooney and Carlos Tevez as the Champions League and Premier League were secured.

His tally of 42 goals in 49 matches felt like something we hadn't witnessed before in modern English football, and the concerns over whether United could keep him were quickly apparent.

As for Salah, well he works quickly.

The slow(ish) start to Liverpool life soon gave way to goal after goal once he'd found his feet.

Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp have never been as entertaining as they were in 2017/18, and the key to it all was Salah, as he was so often the man to finish off the latest lightning move as he worked with Mane and Roberto Firmino, as well as with Philippe Coutinho for the first half of the season.

He scored 44 times in 52 matches in his first ever Liverpool season, with the tears of Kiev sadly meaning he would have to settle for plenty of personal awards if not team ones.

But they'd come.

Being 'selfish'

The goalscoring genius of the pair has been revered worldwide, but they've also often attracted a similar critcism.

Both players have been accused of being single-minded and 'selfish' in front of goal, with Ronaldo sometimes seen looking a little annoyed when it is a teammate who finishes off a move and not him.

These criticisms weren't really apparent at United, where in his latter years he was so good that him taking on the shot was usually the better option, but they would often follow him around in Madrid.

For Salah, they have become one of the soundtracks to his Liverpool career.

A supposed, largely invented rivalry with Mane exists in the chase to be considered the team's top dog, but these are criticisms that are usually waved away with a smile, a shrug and in many cases a goal.

"He was shooting at every opportunity, and his teammates will not have been happy with him on two or three occasions," said Graeme Souness of Salah in a game at Brighton last July, when Liverpool had already won the league.

"But he’s always selfish. I think tonight he was super selfish."

He scored twice and Liverpool won 3-1.

Different but the same

Given his gifted left foot and fairly small frame, it is Lionel Messi who Salah often finds himself compared to over Ronaldo, but that might just be a little too convenient.

Granted the Portuguese and the Egyptian have differing playing styles on the surface, with Ronaldo a much more physical specimen – although Salah is catching up in that regard – but the way they occupy defenders when drifting in from the right (as Ronaldo often did for United) is broadly similar.

They might often score different types of goals – with heading one strength of Ronaldo's that Salah doesn't have, and Salah's left foot much better than that of Ronaldo – but there's a speed of thought and act there which almost looks like a mirror image of the other at times.

Unfortunately for United they wouldn't go on to see the very best of Ronaldo, but Liverpool might just be seeing Salah's now.

The key change and the conclusion

And maybe that will end up being the ultimate difference between the two clubs' experiences of these two great forwards.

Ronaldo had six seasons at United, but for the best part of three of those he was finding his feet as a footballer and indeed as a man.

We're now into Salah's fourth campaign on Merseyside, and probably in his peak years as a footballer. Liverpool are getting the best of him and will still continue to.

The whispers and hastily-arranged interviews are still there, but given the financial problems at Real Madrid and Barcelona it would still be something of a surprise if Salah was spirited away soon, albeit there remains a concern over his contract situation.

He certainly couldn't have done much more to earn a new deal, and you can now add matching a Premier League icon to a pretty extensive list.

If we are to compare the two then one thing is clear: it is Liverpool who are benefitting from a football climate that has changed from when Ronaldo was at United.

They are enjoying the best of Salah, whereas their rivals never got that joy with Ronaldo.

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