EPL

Ronaldo has a part to play under Ten Hag, says Neville

By Sports Desk April 29, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo is a "phenomenon" who will have a big part to play at Manchester United under incoming head coach Erik ten Hag, according to Gary Neville.

Portugal international Ronaldo struck his 17th Premier League goal of the campaign – and 23rd in all competitions – in United's 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Thursday.

Despite now being 37 years of age, Ronaldo is level with Son Heung-min and behind only Mohamed Salah (22) in the Premier League scoring charts this term.

Indeed, only nine other players from Europe's top five leagues have scored more goals in all competitions in 2021-22 than Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's place in the side has been questioned at times this season, but Neville insists he is too good a player to overlook – no matter who is in charge.

"He lifts the fans, he gets them on the edge of their seats, takes his chances, and it'll be really interesting to see what happens with Erik Ten Hag," Neville told Sky Sports.

"We know he plays with an aggressive press, he tries to win the ball high up the pitch, that isn't Cristiano's strong point and we know that. But he will want a goalscorer. 

"He will want someone who can put the ball in the back of the net 20 or 25 times. Can United use him as a bridge next season to get them through Erik Ten Hag's first season? 

"Ronaldo is a phenomenon. He's achieved everything and more in the game, his professionalism is beyond anything you could ever wish for, really.

"He still continues – his persistence, his determination to score goals is absolutely incredible. You can't speak highly enough of him. 

"His goal [against Chelsea] was wonderful and he doesn't really lose that belief in himself when the rest of the team is really lacking in confidence – his is still there."

Ronaldo has scored eight of his side's last nine goals, with his strikes across the season worth 14 Premier League points to United, who are languishing down in fifth.

Ralf Rangnick will be replaced by Ajax boss Ten Hag ahead of next season and ex-United midfielder Roy Keane also expects Ronaldo to play a part under the Dutchman.

"I know people are quick to criticise what [Ronaldo] doesn't do, in terms of his pressing, but he was never great at that anyway," Keane said.

"He's the greatest at the hardest part of the game – putting the ball in the back of the net.

"Ten Hag will be having a sleepless night watching the team, but if you've got a player in the group who can score that amount of goals, they have to be involved. 

"He'll want to play week-in, week-out, the new manager will come in and will be looking for another striker but Ronaldo's not hanging around unless he's playing."

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    Van de Zandschulp – 31/34

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