Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol believes Cristiano Ronaldo‘s age evidently affected his latest performance for Manchester United.
The Red Devils welcomed Real Sociedad to Old Trafford for their UEFA Europa League opener on Thursday (September 8). Ronaldo was handed a rare start this season by Erik ten Hag, having come off the bench in each of his team’s last four matches.
The Portuguese forward seemed to have put United in front in the first half with a trademark header from Diogo Dalot’s cross. However, the goal was ruled out for offside. Barring a few sighters, he didn’t have much impact on the match otherwise, which ended in a 1-0 victory for the visitors.
Speaking on ESPN FC, Nicol noted an instance during the match where the 37-year-old raced through but was pinned back by two Sociedad defenders. The former footballer said:
“I’ll be honest, when you mentioned the game, the only thing that I’ve got in my head is Ronaldo clean through and getting caught by two players. That’s kind of what springs to my mind.”
Nicol went on to add:
“And he did have another look. He had a couple of other chances, not as good as that one, but there was just something missing. That’s what I think about when I think of this game.”
He stated that both Manchester United and Real Sociedad didn’t really create too many opportunities, which prompted him to focus on Ronaldo’s performance:
“There wasn’t much in it between the two sides, not that many chances in the game. But that’s the only thing I can think of. The fact that Ronaldo was clean through and looked every one of those 36, 37 years.”
Ronaldo played the entire 90 minutes of the contest on Thursday night. He got no shots on target apart from the disallowed goal, missed one big chance and was caught offside four times (as per Sofascore). The veteran forward is yet to open his account for the season.
Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo lack incision as Real Sociedad pick up famous win at Old Trafford
The atmosphere around Manchester United has been optimistic in recent weeks. Ten Hag’s men entered their Europa League opener having won four Premier League matches on the bounce. They defeated league leaders Arsenal 3-1 at Old Trafford prior to their match against Real Sociedad.
However, the much-changed Red Devils lacked incision in the final third for much of the contest. While they racked up 15 shots, just three of them were on target. Their attacking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Elanga and Antony got only one shot on target between them.
Manchester United were also on the receiving end of a questionable refereeing decision. Sociedad midfielder David Silva’s shot inside the area ricocheted off Lisandro Martinez’s knee before hitting him on the elbow.
The referee awarded a penalty and after a brief check by the Video Assistant Referee, the original decision stood. Brais Mendez stepped up to score for the La Liga giants in what was the only goal of the contest.
United will look to bounce back when they visit Crystal Palace in the Premier League this weekend.