Cristiano Ronaldo typically grabbed the headlines as his brace in a 3-2 victory for Manchester United over Arsenal on Thursday saw him surpass 800 career goals.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been the focus of plenty of attention of late, with debate over what role he will play in the side under incoming manager Ralf Rangnick.
The Portuguese was named on the bench for United’s previous game against Chelsea but was recalled as caretaker manager Michael Carrick oversaw his final game before handing over to Rangnick.
Here, the PA news agency analyses his performance.
This is the area where discussion has been most rife, with Rangnick being a renowned exponent of pressing tactics while Ronaldo has spent most of his illustrious career playing for teams that operate differently. United generally did well in pressurising Arsenal in their own half, but Ronaldo was not the most obvious exponent of it early on. He did do some chasing in order to win possession or cut some opponents off but did not always get involved. He notably did more pressing after scoring his second goal, however, when presumably the adrenaline was flowing.
Naturally, Ronaldo spent most of the game in the central attacking position and also made a number of moves down the left. Whenever United attacked he lurked menacingly in or around the box. The ball did not always come, but when it did he was a threat. There were also occasions when he dropped back into midfield to receive the ball and initiate attacks.
Arsenal managed to keep Ronaldo at bay for a lot of the game and his runs with the ball in a quiet first-half showing all came to nothing. At one point his understanding with Bruno Fernandes completely failed as he misread an attempted one-two from his team-mate. Things changed early in the second period with a fine run and cut-back to force a save before he got into the right place to score United’s second.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 2, 2021
Ronaldo did not appear to have his shooting boots in the first half as he fired one effort tamely at Aaron Ramsdale, put another wide and was also well off-target with an attempted overhead kick. These were let-offs for Arsenal and the Portuguese was far more ruthless after the break. He tested Ramsdale before sweeping home United’s second goal with aplomb to bring up his 800th for club and country. He then made no mistake from the penalty spot as he blasted United’s third into the roof of the net.
From a largely ineffective performance in the first half, Ronaldo burst into life like the world-class performer he is with two goals and an all-action showing in the second. The debate over his exact role under Rangnick is likely to continue until it becomes clear how the team will operate, but such a display suggests a place must be found for him.