Manchester United perform better without Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting XI, according to the stats – and the difference is stark.
Ronaldo’s time at the club appears to be drawing to a close after revealing he has “no respect” for manager Erik ten Hag and feels “betrayed” by the club in an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.
The revelations come after a string of confrontations with Ten Hag and walk-outs – most recently refusing to come onto the pitch as a substitute before storming down the tunnel before full-time.
“Yes, I feel betrayed, said Ronaldo. “Some people don’t want me here not only this year, but last year too.
“I don’t know what’s going on. Since Sir Alex Ferguson left I have seen not evolution in the club. The progress was zero.
“I don’t have respect for him [Erik ten Hag] because he doesn’t show respect for me. If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna’ have respect for you.”
Ronaldo’s big flashpoints this season
- July 31: Manchester United 1-1 Rayo Vallecano: Ronaldo leaves Old Trafford mid-way through United’s pre-season friendly along with other members of the squad. Ten Hag described it as “not acceptable”.
- October 2: Manchester City 6-3 Manchester United – Ronaldo was left on the bench despite United being 4-0 down at half-time. Ten Hag said he did not bring the 37-year-old on out of “respect” for Ronaldo’s career.
- October 19: Manchester United 2-0 Tottenham – Ronaldo refuses to come onto the pitch as a substitute and storms down the tunnel before full-time.
- October 22: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United – Ronaldo is suspended by United for disciplinary reasons in the aftermath of the Tottenham match.
- November 10: Manchester United 4-2 Aston Villa – After returning for two Premier League games after his suspension, Ronaldo is declared ill by Ten Hag and is not included in the matchday squad for their Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa.
- November 13: Fulham 1-2 Manchester United – Ronaldo is still missing from the United matchday squad and later that evening, his shock interview criticising the club is released.
So is it time for club and player to sever ties? It’s a resounding ‘yes’, according to the stats…
Exit best for both parties?
Manchester United have won 75 per cent of their Premier League matches without Ronaldo in the starting XI this season. That rate is slashed three-fold to merely 25 per cent in the four games he has started.
United’s points return also soars 120 per cent, from 1.0 to 2.2 per game without the Portugal star in the side, while their return in front of goal nearly quadruples – shipping fewer at the other end, too.
In terms of playing style, United are at also polar ends with and without Ronaldo.
Without Ronaldo, United record elite-level returns for fast breaks, goals, expected goals, shots on target and pressing in the final third – attempting just 10 crosses per game on average.
With Ronaldo, all of those metrics nosedive to rock-bottom returns – with the team firing twice as many crosses into the box to find their target man.
The table below highlights how United struggle to conjure quality chances in front of goal with Ronaldo in the team, with his four starts ranking in the bottom five returns for xG this term.
Man Utd running dips with Ronaldo starting
United have run four kilometres fewer per game when Ronaldo has started in the Premier League this season.
The 37-year-old earned his first league start of the campaign in the shocking 4-0 defeat to Brentford in August – playing the full 90 minutes.
Ten Hag’s side covered just 95.5km collectively that day – only Fulham (vs Newcastle) and Crystal Palace (vs Everton) have run less in a match this term.
The Bees covered 13.8km more than United on the day, prompting the manager to order his team to run that very same distance in training the following day.
The Dutchman benched Ronaldo for the following six league games but handed him a second start in the goalless draw with Newcastle and United registered their second-lowest distance this season at 101.5km – with the Portugal forward hooked off on 72 minutes with 7.3km covered.
Effectively, United have covered 4.2 per cent less distance when Ronaldo has lined up in the starting XI this term – a disparity which, initially, might have contributed to dwindling game time.
Speaking after Ronaldo was dropped by Ten Hag for their 1-1 draw at Chelsea for refusing to come on as a late substitute against Tottenham, Gary Neville said: “End it this week or create a truce to get to the World Cup and then end it. Because this has to end.
“There aren’t many Manchester United fans who would now have Ronaldo in their starting eleven. They are better without him – they score more goals without him and they win more points without him. Manchester United are a better team without him.
“For me, Erik ten Hag had no other option. That’s the second time Ronaldo has left Old Trafford before his team-mates have got into the changing room. That is unacceptable.
“When you look at whether Ronaldo should be selected, which is obviously Ronaldo’s main problem at this moment in time – that he’s not playing – as great a player as he’s been, Manchester United are better without him.
“Erik ten Hag knows that, so I think the only thing the club and Ronaldo can do is get together in this next week or so and end the relationship. Cristiano is too good a player, too fantastic a character and the club have got to move on.
“Ronaldo can’t accept not being the star man in Manchester United’s team so he’s going to have to leave – that’s it.”