In a moment of cinematic heroics, Cristiano Ronaldo managed to save Manchester United from yet further slipping down the totem pole of the Champion’s league. The team’s star player, and one of the greatest in the sport’s history to ever punt a football, Ronaldo came through in the 95th minute of the match against Villareal to secure Manchester United’s 2-1 victory. However, Ronaldo’s last-minute goal is a sign of a fumbling team that is struggling to find cohesion or success outside of their star. Without Ronaldo’s singular efforts the game would surely have gone Villareal’s way, with a United side that has become increasingly dependent on their resident football giant to carry them to victory.
For many, United deserved to be leaving the stadium without the win. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United team was not in fighting shape and was clearly outplayed by their Spanish competition. Without the fast hands of goalkeeper David de Gea and with a little more pressure from Villareal’s finishers the game would have been over for the Red Devil’s before the half-time whistle.
Even Solskjaer had to admit that his team could and should have performed better. “We got lucky in the end”, he said in a post-match interview. For many listening what they actually heard was “without Ronaldo, we would have lost”. And for those hearing that, they’re right. However, this dependence on Ronaldo isn’t a novel outcome for the team. Since Ronaldo’s return from convalescence, he has been a crutch for the team to lean on.
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, he can’t always count on the 36-year old Ronaldo to be the central pillar of the team. At best Ronaldo only has a few more years on the pitch in him before the eventualities of an aging athlete catch up with him, and the rest of the United team needs to be ready for that day.