Cristiano Ronaldo’s frustrating afternoon actually started with good news. For the away game at Aston Villa, the superstar was not only nominated for the fourth competitive game in a row for the starting XI, he was even allowed to captain Manchester United. A development that would have been unthinkable after his premature departure against Tottenham and subsequent suspension a few weeks ago.
Ronaldo is “an important part of the team”, Ten Hag justified his decision to captain, but at the same time expected that “if you are captain and leader you have to set an example”. A clear appeal to Ronaldo, which he didn’t really fulfill on the pitch. The Portuguese, like his entire team, did little at 1: 3 (1: 2). United remain fifth while Aston Villa celebrated a historic win as Unai Emery made his managerial debut, succeeding Steven Gerrard. It was the first home win against Manchester United since 1995 and a respectable success in the bottom of the table.
Former Leverkusen player Leon Bailey (7th minute) and Lucas Digne (11th) put the hosts on course early with their goals at the Villa Park stadium. Man United came through an own goal by Jacob Ramsey (45th) to the interim goal. Ramsey himself made up for his mistake shortly afterwards (49th).
And Ronaldo? He was able to score exactly one shot on goal. It was his sixth of the current league season, resulting in a single goal of the season. So far, Ronaldo has mainly made short appearances, but the numbers are still shockingly weak for the striker who is used to success. By way of comparison, in the 37-year-old’s 520 minutes on the pitch in the league, Ronaldo committed seven fouls, meaning one more foul when he had a shot on target. Also against Aston Villa, Ronaldo was more noticeable off the ball. With opponent Tyrone Mings he delivered a wrestling insert, for which both players saw the yellow card.
Erik Ten Hag had certainly hoped for more from Ronaldo as captain. The coach hinted at the press conference that Ronaldo was by no means the first choice for the position and gave the second number that proves Ronaldo’s current weakness. “Captain Harry Maguire sat on the bench. Bruno Fernandes was not available (yellow card blocked, ed.). Then we have David de Gea, who is a leader but is too far away as a goalkeeper. Then we have Casemiro, but he doesn’t speak perfect English. So Cristiano is the leader,” said Ten Hag.
Ronaldo in fifth place, it doesn’t sound like Aston Villa hasn’t been followed by many captaincy stints. In any case, Ronaldo’s future in Manchester is still more than questionable. The striker actually wants to leave the club. A successor was already traded on Sunday. Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus Turin is at the top of the English list, according to the Telegraph.