Manchester United v Wolves: Match in pictures
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Manchester United must push Cristiano Ronaldo to one side and focus on their future stars to save themselves this season, according to Liverpool legend John Barnes. United suffered their sixth Premier League defeat of the season at home to Wolves on Monday and the first of Ralf Rangnick’s interim reign.
Ronaldo’s sensational summer return was met with an explosion of nostalgia and excitement among supporters.
And the Portuguese icon hasn’t individually disappointed this term, registering 15 goals and three assists in 21 games in all competitions.
But he has been the primary target of criticism surrounding United’s inability to gel as a team, with many suggesting his desire to be the main man is harming the club, despite his goalscoring exploits.
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And Barnes believes United must pour all of their energy into the club’s future rather than building around Ronaldo and relying on him to perform every week.
He told BonusCodeBets: “I’m not surprised at United’s struggles. It’s not going to turn around all of a sudden.
“When you talk about effort and determination and intensity, you have to do that every day in training and every game. You can’t just say, ‘we’ve got a new manager now, so we’ll turn it on.’
“United over the last few years have been a team where the players subconsciously perform only when they want to because the manager takes the blame.
“United can beat anyone on their day, but then they’ll go and lose to Wolves at home. There’s no consequence because no one blames the players.
“It’s going to take a while, as it did for Liverpool, to get out of this. They have to rip it up and start again, not just in terms of the manager.
“They’ve got Greenwood, they’ve got Sancho: put these players in the team and make them the future of Man United. Ronaldo is there at 36 and doing okay, but not necessarily helping the team.
“You’ve got the Pogba situation, you’ve got Fernandes, so the others are on the outside. United have superstars and then the others, but you don’t have that at Liverpool or City or Chelsea – it’s one whole team together.
“United will have those problems until a manager comes in and says ‘I don’t care about Ronaldo, Fernandes or Pogba, I’m in charge and you do what I say’.”
After Monday’s disappointment, the United players have two days off and will then go through four successive days of training before next week’s FA Cup clash with Aston Villa.
Rangnick will be relishing the prospect of an undisturbed run of days where he can drill his methods into his new squad further after a Covid-interrupted last few weeks.
But United must improve their situation quickly to ensure it doesn’t worsen by suffering an early cup exit to Steven Gerrard’s side and eventually finishing outside of the top four in the league.
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