Rio Ferdinand feels Manchester United should play to one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s greatest strengths this season and take advantage of a general weakness among Premier League defenders.
Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford has created an incredible buzz, with renewed optimism over a title challenge. And the Portugal captain did not disappoint on Saturday, scoring twice at the Red Devils downed Newcastle 4-1. His two goals were both scored with his feet, the second a speculative shot that went through Magpies keeper Freddie Woodman.
But it is prowess in the air that former United star Ferdinand thinks could make a difference. The ex-Real Madrid superstar seemingly has the ability to defy gravity at times, scoring many times with his head.
And the former England defender believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should urge his wide men to pick out the number seven.
“One thing from a Man United point of view that they could learn from the weekend’s game – and I’m telling you he would have been in there telling them – is just cross that ball,” Ferdinand said on his YouTube channel.
“(He’ll be saying) when you get the opportunities to cross the ball, you put it in there because I’m aggressive and I want the ball.”
And the pundit feels a change in Premier League defensive mindset means Ronaldo could cause havoc in the air.
“It’s well documented – and I’ve always said this for the last few years – the defenders in our country aren’t great at defending crosses, it’s not an art that is honed anymore,” he added.
“When I was a kid that was part and parcel of your daily routine – defending crosses, defending the box. I don’t feel the players are doing that enough – or pulling the coach and saying “listen boss, I need to do a bit more on crosses.
“When I see balls coming into the box at the moment – the body positions, the angles etc are way off. It ain’t easy. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes in that position. But I think Ronaldo can exploit some of the naive defending at the moment in the PL.”
Ronaldo influence extends beyond pitch
There is no question that the return of Ronaldo has made United a threat against any side. His volume of goals means fans can expect plenty of excitement at the Theatre of Dreams.