Manchester United sent shockwaves through the international football world in late August when it completed the deal for Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. After landing the multiple Ballon d’Or winner from Italy’s Juventus, Manchester United signed him to a two-year deal.
Ronaldo’s return to the club where from 2003 through 2009 he won eight major football trophies was not only surprising to fans, but it shuffled up the outlook for many of the English clubs.
Sportsbooks around the world responded by adjusting their odds for Ronaldo’s return. But, is Manchester United bound to win the English Premier League with this move?
The betting favourites
Despite Ronaldo’s well-publicised return to Manchester United, the club currently ranks as the fourth most likely club to win the English Premier League. The club with the best odds is Manchester City, which has odds of 1/20.
Second on the list is Chelsea at 1/10, then Liverpool and Manchester United tied with 1/4 odds. Tottenham Hotspur at 13/5 and Leicester City at 16/5 round out the top six clubs according to the betting odds.
While at Old Trafford in his first go-around, Ronaldo led Manchester United to the Premier League title three times. The club hasn’t recaptured that title since the 2013 season, so they are hoping their fate turns around this year.
At Juventus last season, Ronaldo led the Serie A scoring charts with 29 goals. He did that at the age of 35, too, so it’s clear that he’s still got a lot left in the tank.
Question marks remain
While Ronaldo has returned to Old Trafford, some experts believe that Manchester United will still be on the outside looking in at the end of the season. Manchester City do not have and out-and-out goas-scorer, but Pep Guardiola’s unique style of play actually benefits from not having a central striker. Romelu Lukaku returned to Chelsea, while Manchester United, like their city rivals, did not have a bona fide striker to lead the team up front, save veteran Edinson Cavani who is nearing the end of his career.
The early rumours revolved around Harry Kane coming to Manchester United, but he eventually stayed with Tottenham Hotspur for the upcoming season.
Ronaldo is bound to give Manchester United a serious upgrade in goal scoring, though. He has tallied at least 25 goals in league play in each of the 12 seasons following his departure from Manchester United. That is barely believable goal-scoring consistency and a powerful counter-argument against critics saying Ronaldo does not contribute enough to all-round team play.
The last time the club had one player score that many goals in a season was Robin van Persie, when he scored 26 goals in the 2012-13 campaign. Ronaldo’s best season for Manchester United was in 2007-08 when he scored 42 goals in only 49 games.
At the same time, Manchester United was not really short on goals last season. They scored 73 in the last campaign, which was the highest season total for the club since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
One area where Ronaldo will help significantly, too, is just on simple pressure on the opposition keepers. Last season with Juventus, Ronaldo attempted 162 total shots. The most any Manchester United player attempted last year was 110, by Bruno Fernandes.
More important than overall total shot attempts are the number of attempts that were on target. Ronaldo had 60 with Juventus last season. Kane led the entire Premier League with 47 last season, while Fernandes was Manchester United’s leader with 40.
This is very important for Manchester United, as they ranked sixth in the Premier League with 517 total shot attempts. Their shots on target were better, with 197, ranking them third in the league.
Having a world-class player of Ronaldo’s stature constantly involved in goalmouth action and not wasting golden opportunities should be huge for Manchester United as a whole. Even when Ronaldo himself doesn’t score, he’ll be opening up lanes and opportunities for other players such as Fernandes.
Manchester City still the favourite
Manchester City won the Premier League, running away with it last year, recording 12 more points than any other club. Under the guidance of their manager Pep Guardiola, Manchester City has won three of the past four Premier League titles.
In this offseason, they added Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, which will boost an already impressively talented roster. After a shock opening day defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, they have quickly clicked into gear in the 2021-22 season, with two straight 5-0 victories over Norwich City and Arsenal, with some of the club’s leaders such as midfielders Kevin DeBruyne and Ilkay Gundogan yet to fully hit their stride.
With City seated on their throne at the top of the Premier League, and Champions League winners Chelsea also looking extremely strong too, Manchester United’s task to be champions of England is anything but easy, even with Ronaldo back at Old Trafford. Bottom line, though, is Manchester United surely have a better chance of winning the EPL with Ronaldo in their ranks than they do without him.