Sir Bobby Charlton, recently said that Cristiano Ronaldo was a better player at Manchester United than he is now at Real Madrid. This might come as a surprise to many, given Ronaldo’s impressive numbers for Madrid. But, statistics don’t always tell the whole story do they?
First, the numbers
So, why shouldn’t you trust the numbers in Ronaldo’s case? simple, Ronaldo has 118 goals in 292 appearances for Manchester United whereas he has 144 goals in only half the number of those games for Real Madrid. In the three seasons that he has played for Real Madrid so far, he has crossed the 50 goal mark twice and has 33 goals in his first season in which he was sidelined for almost a month with injury.
In the six seasons Ronaldo spent at Man United, he crossed the 30 goal mark only once. Also, he has made more than 40 appearances for Manchester United in each season(in fact 40 is his lowest number and that was in his 1st season).
Scoring at a rate of one goal per match in top level football is not a very easy thing to do. But, Ronaldo is making it look easy. So, the numbers make the comparison look ridiculous don’t they? Now, let us go beyond those numbers…
The Leagues – Not so much of a difference
We all know that the style of football differs from league to league. It is widely acknowledged that La Liga is a bit more offensive while EPL is a bit conservative. On the contrary, it isn’t really the La Liga that is offensive, it’s just the top two teams. This season, the top 10 teams in EPL have scored 599 goals so far whereas the top 10 in La Liga have scored 603, only four more than PL. But, the top two teams in EPL, City and United have only scored 174 goals compared to the 223 goals by Real and Barcelona.
So, assuming that Ronaldo plays in a better league as the reason for his goal tally is preposterous. Real scored 115 goals this season because Ronaldo contributed 44 to the tally. So is the case with Messi and Barcelona. The leagues do not make a difference so much as we might think.
The age, the maturity
When Ronaldo came to Manchester United, he was this high-paid teenager who was incredibly talented and cocky with the ball. Sir Alex had great trust in him and gave him enough opportunities at United. In his first three seasons at the club, he was mainly seen as a winger. He dribbled forward, show boated to fool many a defender, but the goals just weren’t coming, to rephrase, he was not trying to score.
Later, he molded himself into a Right-Forward, his free kicks have improved and so had his game. He found the net despite playing on the wings. When he moved to Real Madrid, he was already an established player at the peak of his career.
It is true that Ronaldo has matured wonderfully at Madrid. Under Ferguson, he started as a young boy full of raw talent but he is now a complete player and the results are the proof.
During Ronaldo’s last season at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson played him as a striker in his last two seasons. In the 2009 Champions League finals against Barcelona, United started with Ronaldo as forward and Rooney on the wings.
Before Mourinho came along, Real Madrid used a 4-3-3 with Ronaldo as their center forward. Now, they play 4-2-3-1 with Ronaldo playing on the left behind Higuain or Benzema. Even now, Ronaldo manages to find goals and that is a fantastic achievement.
Ronaldo was branded selfish during his initial days at Madrid and yet he has 36 assists to his name. If you look at the number of assists to his name at United, he has managed only 51 assists during his six seasons at United.
Although it might be difficult for some United fans to digest, the fact remains clear – Ronaldo is a better player at Madrid than he was at Manchester. True, he sculpted United’s progress for three seasons but that doesn’t change that fact that he is doing so good at Real Madrid.
With age, Ronaldo has matured and that is a fact that we cannot deny.