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As Manchester United gear up for an important transfer window that will help define their season, Erik Ten Hag has touched down in England and has begun his own preparations.
Emphasis will be on rooting out a number of players from a vastly underperforming squad over the summer months, with five of those already leaving on free transfers.
While it is important to sell others and bring in replacements, it is also absolutely essential to keep Cristiano Ronaldo happy and at the forefront of plans moving into the 22/23 campaign.
There has been parts of the season where Manchester United fans had started to question the Portugal international’s involvement in the team, with some suggesting that he should be dropped, but Ronaldo quickly combatted those arguments with goal involvements.
Over the course of the season, Ronaldo has contributed to 27 goal involvements (24 goals, three assists) in 39 appearances, which is over double the next highest goal-contributor in Bruno Fernandes with 10.
While it is fair to say – and expected – that Ronaldo’s all-round game has certainly stagnated over the past few years, the Portuguese forward provides and delivers absolutely pivotal moments in games.
Manchester United need attacking reinforcements this summer, as they do in midfield and defence, but Ronaldo should still remain a starting centre forward, that is ideally partnered up with someone who complements his game.
There is talk of Ten Hag bringing in wide forward Antony from former club AFC Ajax, as well as SL Benfica’s in-demand centre forward, Darwin Nunez, to Old Trafford this summer.
The Dutch manager has already put on record that he is very much looking forward to working with Ronaldo and using him as an integral part of the squad next season, which bodes well for his plans.
Ronaldo might have lost a yard in pace, but his clinical edge in front of goal is as strong as ever. It would be a complete waste, as well as creating unnecessary problems for Ten Hag, if Manchester United were to lose their star player this summer.
Manchester United are in another transitional period and need strong leaders in the dressing room – with Ronaldo being one of them. Ten Hag, when assessing his squad, should appoint the Portuguese captain for the upcoming season and let others follow his lead.
The Dutchman might not be able to play in the exact same style or system that he performed at Ajax in his first season, which would be understandable, but he does need results and to reclaim a top four finish. To do so, he will need Ronaldo firmly on his side and firing on all cylinders.