This whole preseason for Manchester United has been dominated by two issues: Ronaldo and the search for a striker. Here is another take on those two issues: why Ronaldo is or will be the best striker in the world.
While it is not exactly the world’s greatest discovery to understand that a player who scored 42 goals in a season is a striker, I feel that there is a need to correct certain partial myths of Ronaldo being a forward or a winger.
I consider Ronaldo to be currently the best striker in the world. After Fergie’s attempts to find United’s own Henry, which put us fans through the misery of watching players like David Bellion, he finally got his man. Perhaps not quite a replica, as this one, I would argue, is a more complete attacker than Henry, not least because Ronaldo is one of the best headers in world football today.
Ronaldo ceased to be a winger last season, as he was rarely entrusted with any defensive responsibilities. United played a 3-man midfield to facilitate this. He played wide more often than not, not to behave like a winger, but to put his unbelievable pace to maximum use. Like a certain striker I have already mentioned.
One of the reasons why Ronaldo produced fewer assists last season is, in my opinion, a consequence of him playing on the wings with the primary intention, invariably, of converting from defense to attack as quickly as possible, and then moving into the box to finish, instead of delivering cross after cross to the strikers waiting inside the box.
Apart from delivering accomplished performances in his role of an Henry-style striker, the Champions League games against Roma (away) and Barcelona (home and away) showcased his utility in a more orthodox central striker role. While his performances were not exceptional, they can be described as very good, considering the tactics employed by United in those games.
He was, in my opinion, United’s best player in the first half of that mind numbingly boring game at the Camp Nou, and the runaround he gave to Puyol and Milito, which included getting a penalty, provided ample testimony to his suitability for the role of a central striker.
As we already witnessed last season, Ronaldo has proved through his 42 goals that he can score goals with both feet, with his head, from outside the box, tap-ins, one-on-ones, even using his reproductive organs (as he did in that game against West Ham at home)!
Ronaldo doesn’t often hold the ball up because he can run with it. Considering the fact that his crossing isn’t as excellent as his finishing, and that the two midgets that are Rooney and Tevez are, quite predictably, mediocre in the air, deploying Ronaldo in the center would make Nani’s excellent crossing a lot more productive. It would also ensure that Rooney would get to play in his most effective role, that of a second striker.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon. And a true heir to the name “Ronaldo”.