Cristiano Ronaldo’s performances for Portugal in the Nations League this week will have done little or nothing to convince Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag that he is ready to lead the line for his club.
The 37 year old followed Saturday’s miserable showing against the Czech Republic – in which he failed to register a shot on target despite his side’s 4-0 win – with another bumbling performance against Spain in Braga last night.
Portugal lost the game 1-0 but could and should have won it, with many of their attacks breaking down due to Ronaldo’s errors.
The Madeira man did manage to get his two shots on goal this time, but could have done better with both. He also missed another big chance and on two occasions failed to control the ball when through on goal in fantastic goalscoring positions.
He also failed to register an accurate cross during the game and only won one of his three aerial duels.
Ronaldo lost possession nine times during the game, to add to the seven times against the Czech Republic.
A Sofascore rating in both games of 6.7 made him the second worst player in his team in both matches.
Whether the legend is experiencing a dip in form or whether it is the beginning of the end, only time will tell. But having been given 90 minutes on both occasions by Portugal head coach Fernando Santos, match fitness can now effectively be ruled out as a reason for his decline in performance.
Despite enjoying only 32% of the possession against their neighbours last night, Portugal looked the far better side, but their counter-attacking tactic required pace and clinical finishing up front that Ronaldo could not provide.
Santos’ persistence in playing him could prove to be a problem for the Iberians at the World Cup despite having one of the strongest teams, including the likes of Joao Cancelo, Diogo Dalot, Ruben Dias, Nuno Mendes, Ruben Neves, Vitinha, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix.
Portugal’s struggles to build their game around the aging star will not be lost on Erik ten Hag and will serve to confirm to him that he has done the right thing in restricting him to substitute appearances for most of the season so far.
With Marcus Rashford touch and go for Sunday’s Manchester derby and Anthony Martial still out of contention, it could be a choice of Ronaldo or a false nine for Ten Hag. On these international showings, the false nine could be the better option.
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