Ralf Rangnick must fix Cristiano Ronaldo tactical flaw to reignite Manchester United’s cult hero – Omar Garrick

Over the past few weeks at Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo has been used as a scapegoat for some of the poor collective team performances.

Ralf Rangnick’s team have hardly been at their best and could’ve come out of recent fixtures with worse results.

Of course, the 3-1 Burnley win and 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace were convincing, but the other performances have been woeful.

United were lucky to get away with the victory against Norwich and could’ve easily lost to Newcastle. Based on what we saw in those matches, the 1-0 loss to Wolves was not a surprise.

There are now reports of dressing room discontent. The MEN understands that United players are becoming ‘sick to death’ of the dwindling standards at the club and resentment is festering among some of their under-used squad members.

Clearly, there are some serious issues that need addressing and it’s hard to see how Rangnick gets the club out of the current mess they find themselves in.

One area that may need changing is in United’s attacking unit, as they’ve only managed to score more than once in one game under the German tactician.

It feels as if top scorer Ronaldo is the one being criticised all the time when, in reality, he’s being relied upon too much to get the team firing.

Ronaldo has scored 14 of United’s 29 goals in all competitions this season, which is a bad indictment on the rest of the team, who simply haven’t been performing to the standards they showed last term under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

One person who falls into that category is Bruno Fernandes.

Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on January 3, 2022 in Manchester, England.
Fernandes hasn’t been as prolific in front of goal this season (Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

There’s no doubt that Fernandes was United’s talisman last season and without securing his signature in January 2020, the club would be in a much worse state than it’s already in.

Last season, the 27-year-old scored a whopping 28 goals and provided 17 assists in 58 games – stats that haven’t been seen from a midfielder since Frank Lampard was in his prime.

Fernandes predominantly played as United’s number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having the freedom to make runs into the 18-yard box and stay high up the pitch. As you can see from his heat map from last season, staying in and around the penalty area was one of his specialities.

This is Bruno Fernandes' heat map from the 2020/2021 Premier League season.
Bruno Fernandes 20/21 heat map, via SofaScore

This season though, Fernandes hasn’t been as prolific in front of goal, scoring five times and assisting on nine occasions in 24 appearances.

It’s obvious that Fernandes’ role has changed since Ronaldo was signed. When you see the two play together, United’s number 18 always looks to see where his teammate is before thinking about a shot on goal.

As we’ve seen during their time away with Portugal, Fernandes has never been as effective in front of goal and has always had to adjust to Ronaldo. Judging from his heat map this season, you can see it’s had an effect.

This is a heat map of Bruno Fernandes 2021/22 heat map so far this season
Fernandes’ heat map so far this season, via SofaScore

Since Rangnick has come in, United have reverted to a 4-2-2-2 and Fernandes has scored no goals and registered no assists.

Clearly, United need to get him around the penalty area, where he scored most of his goals last season by making runs inside the box and picking up spaces in the final third.

How could they do this? Well, it’s obvious he hasn’t been as impactful as one of two attacking midfielders in the 4-2-2-2, so if Rangnick is sticking to this formation, it might be worth trialling him as the second striker alongside Ronaldo. That way, there’d be less emphasis to track back and he’d be able to press from the forward line.

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It might also be worth giving Fernandes the armband, just like Ronaldo had in the game against Wolves. He evidently gets what the club is about and is a leader. He deserves it and it may provoke a response from him.

Putting Fernandes as the second striker, alongside Ronaldo, might benefit both of them. Certainly, it’s something Rangnick should consider.

Should Fernandes play alongside Ronaldo? Follow our United On My Mind writer Omar Garrick on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.

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