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Another Premier League fixture, another hat-trick for the ever awe-inspiring Cristiano Ronaldo.

With three more added to the tally, Ronaldo surpasses 20 goals this season in all competitions for Manchester United – 12 more than the second highest goalscorer for the club this season: Bruno Fernandes.

It shows Manchester United’s reliance on Ronaldo this season, even if he is 37 years of age and and has been receiving criticism for his lack of all-round play on the pitch.

If it was not for the Portugal captain’s goals this season, an already dreary and underwhelming campaign would have been far worse. The Red Devils certainly would not have made it out of the Champions League groups, as well as not having a chance at finishing in the top four domestically.

While their run in is by no means easy to navigate with Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all still to play, Manchester United remain in the hunt and only three points from fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. With the way the results have been falling – Spurs and Arsenal both losing over the weekend – Ralf Rangnick’s side have Ronaldo to thank for his three goals to secure the victory.

There have been calls for Ronaldo to be dropped during parts of this season, but the truth of the matter is that Man United do not have any semblance of squad depth to adequately do so.

Edinson Cavani, the current second-string centre forward who does pose a threat on the pitch, can only play once in a blue moon and spends the rest of the time on the sidelines or in the treatment room. It has not worked out in this second campaign for the Uruguay international with it looking ever more likely that he will be free to leave this summer.

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And so it is left down to Ronaldo to score the goals and play from the front – something he has done all season-long and delivered. There are question marks over his hold-up play and inability to press, but Ronaldo is 37 and unlikely to change now. He is a goalscorer and has done that yet again in an underperforming team.

The new manager will have to make a decision, which looks like it will be current Ajax boss Erik ten Hag. Contract details are being ironed out but a verbal agreement has been made which, barring any incidents, means the Dutchman will manage Manchester United next season.

Ten Hag plays in a certain way that will get this current crop of players working and running harder than ever, which is exactly what they need. He will, however, have a decision over Ronaldo’s involvement.

It should be abundantly clear by now that the Red Devils need to bring in another centre forward this summer, to either assist Ronaldo or take the reins of him by their performances.

Benfica’s Darwin Nunez, currently priced at around £70 million, will be a player of keen interest after his performances for the Portuguese side in the Champions League over the course of this season. Most of Europe’s top teams will be chasing his signature, which might make it difficult for the Red Devils should they not be participating in Europe’s top tier competition next season.

With one year left on his current deal, if Ronaldo does stay, he will be expecting a starting role, which might mean Ten Hag will have to alter his 4-3-3 formation he typically uses, or have a very clear rotation policy.

It has been another disappointing season without any silverware for the Red Devils’ fans, but if one thing is certain, it is the fact that Ronaldo’s 21 goals in 35 appearances this season have not been the issue.

Source: Forbes

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