Paul Merson believes that Cristiano Ronaldo is “not the same player” as he was in his first, explosive spell at Manchester United.
The 36-year-old recently arrived back at Old Trafford with huge anticipation after leaving Juventus. He originally left United in 2009 and went on to become Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer. From there, he also impressed in the Serie A, before deciding to find a new challenge.
The anticipation reached fever pitch on Saturday when Ronaldo made his second Red Devils debut.
However, he did not disappoint, netting twice in a 4-1 win over Newcastle. Ronaldo admitted after the game that he felt “super nervous”, following the excitement at his return.
But speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the match, Merson insisted that he has concerns for the forward at Man Utd.
“He’s just not going to be the player that beats players,” the pundit said. “You watch them when he was at Man Utd before he was extraordinary.
“The stuff he was doing, foot-overs… my telly fell off the stand once, the camera man went, the lot. He was just that good. He will score you goals if you put the ball in the box, Ronaldo needs crosses in my opinion.
“You’ve seen it against the Republic of Ireland, put it in the box the man, he’s a finisher, they play with two wingers who don’t cross the ball.
“They play with [Jadon] Sancho who cuts inside and has a shot, [Mason] Greenwood on the other side who wants to come inside or even go outside like he did against Wolves and have shots.”
But United opened the scoring from exactly that type of situation, albeit with help from an error. Greenwood’s shot from the edge of the area ran through a number of bodies before Freddie Woodman spilled it.
As such, Ronaldo was on hand for an easy tap-in after reacting quickest.
Merson has Ronaldo, Man Utd concern
Merson added that Juventus did not look like winning the Champions League, despite that being the remit of Ronaldo’s 2018 arrival.
He said that winning the Premier League would be the “biggest thing” in the forward’s career.
But he added: “If Man City didn’t come in for him, he wouldn’t be at Man Utd.”
Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed how a speech from Ronaldo inspired United to victory.