The second leg of the last-16 tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid marks Cristiano Ronaldo’s first return to Old Trafford since leaving for the Spanish outfit in the summer of 2009.
While most players face a hostile reception when they face their old clubs, Ronaldo can expect quite the opposite. During the first leg, the Manchester United fans were heard chanting his name throughout the game. In what is set to be an emotional return for the Portugese, a look at his Premier League statistics and his quite astonishing numbers at Real Madrid illustrates just the threat that United face. Will he score at Old Trafford? Bwin are offering a free £20 bet for EPLIndex readers
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Cristiano Ronaldo Goal Statistics 2008/09
During his final season at United in 2008-09 (only year in which Ronaldo data is available on EPLIndex) Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals, bettered only by Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka. Ronaldo (107) also finished with the second most recorded shots, once again outdone by another Chelsea player in the form of Frank Lampard with 110.
*Note: clear-cut chance data not available.
Therein lies the danger for United because Ronaldo will shoot from anywhere without hesitation. In 2008/09 Ronaldo scored 67% of his Premier League goals from inside the box and 33% from outside it – the nearest challenger being Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard with 25% of his goals coming from outside the box. With his trademark technique, Ronaldo can make the ball dip and swerve in ways that most players can’t.
In 2008/09 Ronaldo was averaging a shot every 26 mins and in one game against Middlesbrough, Ronaldo was shooting every 10 mins which illustrates just how dangerous he can be.
Compare that to Robin van Persie (27 mins) and Wayne Rooney (28 mins) this season and perhaps the difference isn’t too significant. Javier Hernández (23 mins) is the only United striker to better Ronaldo’s eagerness to shoot, although he is not likely to start the second leg.
Perhaps there is some relief for United fans in that during his final season in Manchester, Ronaldo had a chance conversion rate of 17%, eclipsed this season by Rooney’s 21%, van Persie’s 23% and Hernández’s 27%.
The trouble is that Ronaldo has become an ever better player since joining Madrid; with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson stating that his maturity is what’s responsible for the best form of his career.
The threat of conceding a crucial away goal is not eased by the fact that Ronaldo has become so clinical since arriving in Spain. He’s scored a quite mind-blowing 136 goals in 126 games, a ratio which is unsurpassed in top-level European football currently.
Ronaldo at Real Madrid
Whilst some of Ronaldo’s 2008/09 stats might be inferior to a few United players this season, there is no doubt that Ronaldo is a different animal having signed for Madrid.
In 2011/12, Ronaldo fired Madrid to the Spanish title and scored 46 La Liga goals in the process.
This season, Ronaldo has scored 24 goals in 25 games in La Liga and has 5 assists to his name. No United player can attest to such a level of attacking prowess.
Ronaldo has already amassed some 176 shots in the league this season, all of which further demonstrates that the Portugese is currently playing the best football of his life.
It is worth reinforcing that the Premier League stats for Ronaldo are taken from 2008/09 and because he has developed into an even better player whilst at Madrid, it could be argued that his Premier League stats in this article are rendered obsolete.
That being said, perhaps the main reason why Ronaldo’s return will be such an emotional and captivating one is because he arrived at Old Trafford with obvious raw potential, but left as a superstar of world football. After all, his record transfer fee of £80m makes him the most valuable player of all time.
Moreover, he left United a year after arguably his most successful season to date having won the Champions League in 2008 and subsequently the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Keeping Ronaldo quiet for 90 minutes seems an improbable task, and limiting him to shots from outside the box is equally futile because he is just as capable from outside it the box as he is in it. With his ability from set pieces and aerial prowess combined, United may well have to concede that hope is the best answer to the number of threats that Ronaldo offers.
Once Manchester United’s, and now Real Madrid’s number 7, Ronaldo has ironically scored 7 goals in the Champions League this season and there may not be anything United can do to stop him from adding to his total.
There is no doubt that for United to progress they will have to do all they can to keep Ronaldo at bay and even then, Madrid possess an array of attacking talent in the form of Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema who can punish them.
Transfer rumours of a return to Manchester are likely to rumble on but as most Manchester United fans will be hoping, maybe this won’t be the last time Ronaldo plays at Old Trafford…