Ronaldo's superstar quality is digging Man Utd out of holes AGAIN

Forget his running stats, work-rate and the criticism from pundits, Cristiano Ronaldo’s superstar quality keeps digging Man United out of holes – and proving they were RIGHT to bring him back home

  • Manchester United scraped a 2-2 draw at Atalanta in the Champions League
  • Cristiano Ronaldo earned the visitors a point with a stunning 91st-minute volley
  • Ronaldo now has nine goals in 11 matches since re-joining the club this summer
  • However, the 36-year-old has been criticised for his lack of defensive output
  • Despite those criticisms the forward continues to bail United out with his goals 

Cristiano Ronaldo and goals. Four words that have become synonymous for the majority of his stunning career, including on Tuesday night.

Ronaldo bailed out Manchester United once more this season as he rescued them a fortuitous point at Atalanta in the Champions League.

The iconic No 7, who had already scored in the first half, rescued an unlikely 2-2 draw in Bergamo with a sublime and instinctive first-time volley from outside the penalty box to break Atalanta hearts in second-half stoppage time.

Cristiano Ronaldo came to Manchester United’s rescue once more this term on Tuesday night

Ronaldo scored a 91st-minute volley to rescue the Red Devils a 2-2 draw against Atalanta

This wasn’t the first time that the iconic No 7 has bailed out United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

That 91st-minute strike took his tally to five goals in four matches in Europe’s elite club competition for 2021-22. Breaking it down further it’s all the more impressive when you consider that includes two late winners and an injury-time equaliser.

Ronaldo has come in for criticism during United’s malaise, due to his lack of defensive pressing from the front, but you can’t argue with his numbers.

His goals in the Champions League alone have seen United earn five extra points to top Group F. Without them they’d be bottom and staring at another humiliating group-stage exit.

The 36-year-old was brought in the summer to deliver in the important moments and he’s currently doing that – especially in Europe.

United’s DNA is renowned for late comebacks and that’s been a recurring theme in this competition, spearheaded by Ronaldo.

Trailing 1-0 at home to Villarreal on September 29, it was the Portuguese superstar who completed the turnaround with a close-range goal in the 95th minute – virtually the last kick of the match.

Ronaldo wheels away in celebration after scoring the winner vs Villarreal in the 95th minute

Last month, the 36-year-old scored a towering header to seal a 3-2 comeback vs Atalanta

He then followed this up against Atalanta at Old Trafford on October 20. This time the Red Devils were losing 2-0 at half-time before the forward scored a towering header on 81 minutes to seal the most unlikeliest of 3-2 victories, considering their first-half showing.

And the Italians must be sick of the sight of Ronaldo after his brace in Tuesday’s reverse group-stage encounter.

‘At the end of the match, I spoke with Ronaldo,’ Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini told Sky Italia. ‘He’s an incredible player, some even call him a problem.

‘That’s a nice problem to have. He rarely gets it off target; half the time he scores, half the time it is saved.

‘I told him, “You know what we say in Italy? Go to hell”.’

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini jokingly told Ronaldo to ‘go to hell’ after his late equaliser

Gasperini’s stance certainly contrasts with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s who can thank the  heavens for having Ronaldo on his side.

‘Cristiano is just incredible – it’s what he does,’ the Manchester United boss said.

‘If there is anyone you want that chance to fall to it’s him. His technique was just phenomenal.’

Ronaldo has been criticised for not working harder for the team, but Solskjaer added: ‘I’m sure the Chicago Bulls didn’t mind having Michael Jordan either.

‘We all have a role and responsibilities. Cristiano a leader in the group and that’s what he does, he scores goals. He does provide those moments. He’s getting better and he’s feeling up to speed now.’

Solskjaer hailed his goalscorer as a leader – and compared him to NBA icon Michael Jordan

Ronaldo now has nine goals in 11 appearances across all competitions for United this season but he has come in for criticism for his defensive duties – a topic that was especially highlighted after United’s chastening 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool on October 24.

This viewpoint has been rubbished by Rio Ferdinand who reiterated his stance once more on Tuesday night.

‘People say he doesn’t work hard enough, doesn’t close people down, doesn’t press, but he does the hardest thing in the game – score goals,’ he told told BT Sport.

‘At that critical moment he steps up – in any country, in any stadium, at any time. He just arrives on the biggest occasions and delivers.’

He’s certainly done that for the Red Devils at times already this season. His Premier League goals have either given United the lead (against Newcastle on September 11 and at Tottenham on Saturday) or drawn them level (at West Ham on September 19) – highlighting his worth.

Rio Ferdinand was left full of praise for Ronaldo following his one-man show at Atalanta

For all of Ronaldo’s output though, it’s unquestionable that United’s team performances have been below par – with many pointing to the No 7 as a reason why.

Prior to that Liverpool mauling, Ronaldo’s ex-United team-mate Gary Neville admitted that the club must compensate for Ronaldo’s lack of defensive output.

‘They had to do the deal, the club had to do the deal, Ole had to do the deal,’ he said on Sky Bet’s The Overlap Fan Debate. ‘With it comes big positives, but with it also comes problems.

‘Ronaldo had to be managed, shall we say, in the 2008 Barcelona semi-final, away from home, Cristiano Ronaldo was shoved up front on his own, [Wayne] Rooney and Ji-Sung Park were shoved wide and [Carlos] Tevez was brought back onto [Sergio] Busquets. Because you couldn’t carry him in the big games because generally he doesn’t work hard enough.

‘He is playing up front there now, you are never going to press from the front. The idea that Manchester United are going to be a pressing team is never going to happen, he wasn’t pressing 10 or 15 years ago.

Last month Gary Neville said that Solskjaer must find a solution to ‘compensate’ for Ronaldo

‘So then you say what is the style of Manchester United? Are they a counter-attack team? That becomes difficult when you are playing against teams that are inferior to you most of the time.

‘What you get is teams like Aston Villa and Everton counter-attacking, bit of quality, a half decent team against Manchester United will cut through them. That is a problem. So they have got to stop that.

‘There is big decisions that Ole has to make in the next few weeks to compensate for Ronaldo coming. What they have to find now is a way of playing with Ronaldo in there.

‘I support the signing, he is a great… I love him to bits, I couldn’t love him any more, but United have to find a way of playing to compensate him.

‘If you then put Bruno Fernandes in there, you then put Mason Greenwood in there, you then put Paul Pogba in there, with Cristiano you are going to get cut through on the counter attack and you aren’t winning any leagues. Trust me you aren’t winning any leagues. So there has got to be a balance to the team.’

Ronaldo gave United the lead at Tottenham in the league on Saturday with this stunning volley

There is still plainly no balance within the team, with Solskjaer’s switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 formation still not yielding any inspiring team efforts.

However, with Ronaldo up front you always have a chance – as proved once again on Tuesday night.

Atalanta will be delighted they don’t have to face the goalscoring No 7 until the quarter-final stages now, if both reach that far.

Now it’s time for Solskjaer to find a system that will allow Ronaldo to continue to do what he does and United to play to the sum of their parts. 

It’s now up to Solskjaer to find a solution to maximise Ronaldo’s talents and United’s as a team

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