With his two goals against Arsenal on Thursday evening, Cristiano Ronaldo passed the amazing milestone of 800 goals for club and country, and the 3-2 victory against the Gunners was an appropriate send-off for Manchester United's resigning caretaker manager Michael Carrick.
Ronaldo has been absolved of all pressing responsibilities for the remainder of the season. That shouldn't come as a surprise at his age of 36, given his lack of reputation as a defensive pressure player. Ronaldo's stunning comeback to Old Trafford, on the other hand, resulted in the defensive structure of a Solskjaer squad that had relied on a consistent press to achieve acceptable success previous season collapsing under his influence.
Despite popular belief, the Portuguese great is not only to blame for the team's struggles under the previous coach. Solskjaer was unable to enhance his defense in order to accommodate the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and the team lacked a clearly defined attacking philosophy or structure under his guidance.
When Carrick took over as captain, the team won its first game, defeating Villarreal 2-0 and earning a spot in Europe's last 16 round of the Champions League. A 1-1 draw against league leaders Chelsea followed, and then came today's tumultuous 3-2 victory against Manchester United. During that brief and effective stay, he provided some sense of stability to the team by introducing a contentious new game plan that was met with mixed reactions.
Against Villareal, he chose to rest Bruno Fernandes, which allowed United to bolster their defensive system even further. However, after Cristiano Ronaldo had opened the score in the first half and they went into halftime without scoring, Fernandes came off the bench to assist on a goal.
Carrick made the bold decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for the first half of the match against Chelsea. Due to the decision to leave one half of the Portuguese superstar duo on the bench, United's defensive structure and pressing were significantly improved over the chaotic Solskjaer era.
While Rangnick's opponents were sitting one player for the first half of the game, Carrick had discovered a plan that could be advantageous to Rangnick: releasing that player in the second half of the game in an offensive blitz to snare goals and results.
Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo have a severe problem in that when they start playing together, they don't always create positive results.
United will be in strong position to qualify for the Champions League if they finish in the top four of the Premier League this season. Furthermore, they have a fantastic run of fixtures ahead of them, with games against relegation-threatened Burnley, Norwich, and Newcastle, as well as bottom-half Brentford and Aston Villa, all coming within seven days of each other.
That, combined with a Champions League encounter against Young Boys, provides for a dream start for new manager Rangnick's first season.
In order to move forward, he must build on Carrick's techniques in the future - as well as solve the famous Ronaldo-Fernandes conundrum.
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