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Since his inauguration as Manchester United manager, Erik Ten Hag has made it very clear that Cristiano Ronaldo is integral to his plans. In his first press conference, he stated that the Portuguese superstar can bring one crucial thing to Old Trafford: goals. And lots of them. After he netted 24 times in 37 games last season, how could the incoming Dutchman say anything to the contrary?

CR7 managed to take his career total to 813 during the summer’s UEFA Nations League ties, and the 20+ he added for the Red Devils last term was in spite of being a part of one of the poorest United teams in history. But although CR7 is a part of the former Ajax manager’s plans, it appears that the 20-time top-flight winners aren’t a part of his. Ronaldo reportedly hasn’t turned up at Carrington for pre-season training and has asked the club whether he can leave, as he desires to play Champions League football during the twilight years of his career. And can anyone blame him? He came to Manchester United to return them to their glory days, not to battle West Ham United for Europa League qualification.

Seeing his former teammates Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos lifting their fifth ‘Big-Eared’ trophy last month will only have put more question marks in his head. Croatian Modric is just a few months younger than the world’s all-time top goalscorer, and he will feel that, if Modric can still win club football’s biggest prize, then why can’t he?

Although Ronaldo did score the vast majority of United’s goals - over twice as many as the next best, namely Bruno Fernandes - the team as a whole scored far less than in previous years. They scored just 57 goals all year, averaging a measly 1.5 goals per match. The amount they bagged was 16 short of the amount they managed the year prior. It was their lowest total and their goal difference - which was zero - is their worst since the Premier League began. So yes, Ronaldo would be a big loss, but irreplaceable? Definitely not.

Who are the contenders to replace him?
So far in the transfer window, Manchester United have only dipped their toes into the free agents market. Recently, the addition of Danish maestro Christian Eriksen was confirmed and it looks like Juventus’ out-of-contract sensation Paulo Dybala may also arrive in the North-West. The Argentina international has fallen out of favour at the Allianz Stadium in recent weeks thanks to the arrival of Serbian hotshot, Dusan Vlahovic.

The five-time Serie A winner is a proven commodity at the highest level. He bagged 115 goals during his seven years in Turin and looked set to be joining Juve’s rivals Inter Milan this summer. However, talks have stalled in recent weeks and Ten Hag looks set to pounce.

Is there a replacement already in United’s ranks?
There may have been a viable replacement already at Old Trafford a couple of years ago perhaps but, in present times, it looks like the club will have to search further afield. The likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have all shown promise up-front in years gone by and it wouldn’t be one of football’s greatest shocks to see any of them return to the fold. However, the former two have proven to be far too inconsistent to be relied upon, and the latter is currently suspended by the club for an external matter.

Therefore, should Ronaldo leave, of course he will be missed but is he irreplaceable? Well, that depends on whether Erik Ten Hag takes a look into his current squad or into the transfer market. Perhaps a former Palermo-man may be able to fill the void nicely, and free of charge. It remains to be seen what will happen, but there are some big personalities here wanting to make their voices heard.


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This site was originally conceived by Mark Graham and launched in 1996, the oldest Manchester United page on the internet today, built to preserve & showcase the history of the club & share results, stats & information of Manchester United.
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