Manchester United scraped a 2-1 victory at the London Stadium against West Ham United on Matchday 5 of the 2021/22 Premier League season. The Red Devils moved up to 13 points from the first five games, and are level on points with Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table. Since Ronaldo’s arrival, all focus has been shifted towards him, and he has paid off by scoring three goals in his first two Premier League games.
But, his arrival might have had a negative effect on Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho. Both of them were having better games before his arrival, especially Greenwood, who had already scored three goals from three league games before Ronaldo’s signing.
The above visual shows the crosses of all the Premier League teams at the end of Gameweek 3. Manchester United had the third least number of crosses in the first three matches with just 31. This was because Mason Greenwood led the line for the Red Devils. Mason Greenwood is someone who thrives on short passes and through balls where he can use his pace and score goals. Similarly, Jadon Sancho is someone who likes to come into the box from the wings and score or assist goals. But since Ronaldo’s arrival, Manchester United have changed their style a bit, as they are now piling up multiple crosses into the box with Ronaldo as the target.
This viz shows the crosses statistic at the end of Gameweek 5, and as one can notice, Manchester United now have the eighth highest crosses in the league with 75. This means that they have put in a total of 44 crosses into the penalty area in the two games Ronaldo has started in the Premier League. This speaks volumes as to why Sancho and Greenwood will be at a disadvantage due to Ronaldo’s return.
Mason Greenwood now has a total of 19 touches in the opponent’s penalty area over the course of five matches, but Ronaldo already has reached 18 touches after just playing two games. Similarly, Sancho has also had fewer touches in the box since Ronaldo’s arrival, even in the Champions League game.
In terms of total shots in the league, Ronaldo has already reached equal to Greenwood’s 13 shots after just playing two games. Sancho was in the list of highest shots before Ronaldo came, but has since been staying out on the wing, putting in crosses trying to find Ronaldo.
The tactics of long balls, crosses and looking for the target man Ronaldo suits the football style of players like Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, as both will like to put in long balls as well as look to be at the end of second balls from crosses. The style does not suit somebody like Jadon Sancho, who plays on the left-wing and likes to cut inside towards the goal. He now has to look for Ronaldo more often than not. Both Greenwood and him are now less likely to take shots on goal and score goals.
Greenwood, who likes playing upfront and scoring goals, can still take this opportunity as a learning experience. He has the opportunity to learn from the best, and use Ronaldo’s guidance, to become a prolific goal-scoring centre forward in the near future. Ronaldo has also been a winger in his younger days, and it is obvious that he will have a lot of tips and advice for Sancho as well.
Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will be happy with their performances in the league so far this season. They are currently equal on points with league leaders Chelsea and Liverpool. It will be a long season for Manchester United, as they will hope to get goals from Ronaldo, but also from others like Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood. This front four is expected to make the Red Devils serious title contenders.