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The Portugal international notched his 100th Premier League goal at the weekend and he can help himself to another at Old Trafford.
Back Cristiano Ronaldo to score anytime (+130)
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Last week was a busy one for Manchester United. It began with a 4-0 demolition at the hands of Liverpool on Tuesday. That was a sobering absorbing for United, who have fallen so far behind their arch-rivals both on and off the field.
If Erik ten Hag does not know that already, he will find out pretty soon. The Ajax manager’s imminent arrival at Old Trafford this summer was confirmed before Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal, a result which has in effect ended United’s slim hopes of a top-four finish.
There is no getting away from it: this has been a disastrous season for the Red Devils. It is easy to forget they finished second last term. Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho – two world-class players and one of the brightest young talents in Europe – arrived at Old Trafford in the summer, so it did not seem over the top to suggest United could mount a challenge for the Premier League title.
Not only have they failed to make that leap forward, they have taken several steps in the opposite direction. The Red Devils are only two points above a West Ham United side that has long since turned its attention to the Europa League. That is the competition Ten Hag’s team will probably be playing in next season – and that is the best-case scenario.
The Dutchman is an astute coach who has demonstrated many useful attributes in his current role at the Johan Cruyff Arena: he is tactically bright, in tune with current trends in the game, and knows how to bring through young players.
No one should expect an immediate upturn in United’s fortunes, though. It will be a long way back to the top for the 20-time champions of England.
Twelve months ago, Chelsea had a lot on their plate as the end of the campaign approached: an FA Cup final, a Champions League final and a battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League. All in all it was a successful period for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who lost the FA Cup final but achieved their objectives in Europe and in the top flight.
This time around, the FA Cup is all that Chelsea have left to play for. The final against Liverpool takes place in the middle of next month, when the Reds will hope to still be on course for a unique quadruple of trophies. Jurgen Klopp’s side look to be peaking at just the right time, but the same cannot be said for Chelsea. The Blues have looked a little flat in recent weeks.
That is probably in part down to the manner of their Champions League exit, when Chelsea delivered a brilliant performance at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu but still went out to Real Madrid. The incessant takeover talk may have had an adverse effect. Ongoing speculation about the futures of key players cannot be helping either.
Whatever the reason, Tuchel will be keen to see his team build up some momentum ahead of the FA Cup final. Going into that game on the back of an underwhelming run of form would hand Liverpool a major advantage.
There has been a huge amount of debate about Ronaldo this season. Some argue that many of United’s problems stem from the fact the team has had to be reconfigured to fit around the Portuguese striker. The cold, hard facts show that United have got worse since Ronaldo returned to the club for a second spell.
His supporters use the 37-year-old’s goal record as their go-to rebuttal. Only Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min have found the back of the net more often than Ronaldo this season. It would be absurd, they say, to criticize the Premier League’s third-highest goalscorer.
As ever, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Yet while United have undeniably regressed since Ronaldo returned to Manchester, the blame for that lies at the feet of the club rather than those of their talisman. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has held up his end of the bargain. He was brought to score goals and score goals is what he has done.
Ronaldo has notched seven of them in his last five appearances at club level. That is a phenomenal return when you consider how dysfunctional United have looked in recent times. Our suggested bet for Thursday’s match at Old Trafford is Ronaldo to score anytime.
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|Manchester United vs Chelsea Information|
|Teams||Manchester United vs Chelsea|
|Location||Old Trafford, Manchester, England|
|Time||Thursday, 28 April 2022, 2.45 AM EDT|
|How to watch||USA Network|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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