Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United this summer caused so much excitement among fans – and he has already scored a few important goals – but is the side actually better off without him?
In one of the Premier League’s highest-profile signings, the prodigal son, now 36, returned from Juventus this summer – just days after it looked as if he was going to join rivals Manchester City.
But after netting four goals in his first three games, he has only scored two in his next six – although they have both been late Champions League winners – against Villarreal and Atalanta.
United have changed the way they play to fit the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in their side and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under extreme pressure, with his team looking further away from the elite than ever after a 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool.
Former team-mate Leonardo Bonucci thinks Juventus were a better team without him and former Liverpool and Scotland captain Graeme Souness does not believe he should be an automatic starter at United.
So is Ronaldo helping or hindering United?
What has he done well?
Ronaldo’s three goals in six Premier League games is a perfectly decent return – two in his first game against Newcastle and one against West Ham in his second – but, by his high standards, it is not outstanding.
The last time he ended a league season with a 50% scoring rate or less was 2006-07, his fourth season with United, when he netted 17 goals in 34 games.
That made him the third top scorer in the Premier League, where Didier Drogba won the Golden Boot with 20.
It’s early days yet – but 14 players have scored more Premier League goals than him this season, including Wolves’ Hwang Hee-chan and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr.
Instead, his main heroics have come in the Champions League – a tournament where he is the all-time top scorer with 137 goals.
His two late winners are the difference between United topping the group on six points and being bottom, three points behind the top two.
His six goals overall have taken his tally for Manchester United up to 124 while he has 450 goals for Real Madrid, a world-record 115 for Portugal, 101 for Juventus and five for Sporting Lisbon.
He plays as a number nine these days, as he has for many years now – a far cry from the tricky winger first witnessed by English fans when he arrived from Sporting.
For touches in the Premier League he ranks joint 216th with 243 but for touches in the opposition area he is joint 16th with 39.
Ronaldo has the eighth-highest number of shots in this season’s Premier League (25), with United team-mates Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes above him. He is joint ninth for shots on target (nine).
“He will score goals and excite the crowd, but I don’t think he can play every game,” said Sky Sports pundit Souness.
“I would take him, but the conversation has to be ‘you won’t be starting every game but you will have a big influence over nine months’.”
What about his all-round impact?