We ‘released’ Cristiano Ronaldo from Man United and the results were terrifying
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Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly still set on leaving Manchester United this summer after non-progressive talks with the club earlier this week.
After missing United's pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, Ronaldo returned to training this week whilst also holding talks with the club about his future. But, according to reports, United failed to convince Ronaldo to stay, with the 37-year-old desperate to play Champions League football next season.
The discussions between United, Ronaldo and the Portugal international's agent Jorge Mendes supposedly emphasised Ronaldo's importance in getting United back to the Champions League under Erik ten Hag, but the ex-Real Madrid and Juventus striker was not swayed.
Many clubs have been linked with Ronaldo including Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, though backlash from fans of the latter has seen banners displayed at their latest pre-season friendly saying 'CR7 not welcome'. As of now, it's very unclear where Ronaldo could be playing his football next season.
So, with Ronaldo wanting out of United, what would happen if the Portugal international was released from his contract this summer? Where could the 37-year-old end up, and how could United perform without him?
United missed Ronaldo badly in our simulation
To set up the simulation, we released Ronaldo from his United contract, and the striker ended up back at Real Madrid as his Champions League wish came true. We then simulated the entire 2022/23 season to see how United could perform without their star player.
In the 2021/22 campaign, Ronaldo scored 24 goals in 38 appearances for United, and in the 2022/23 season simulation, United's top scorer was Marcus Rashford, with the Englishman grabbing just 17 goals in 47 games. Seven fewer goals in nine more games, Rashford failed to replicate the goal return of Ronaldo in a less threatening United attack.
Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes both had good seasons for Ten Hag's side, with the former grabbing 13 goals and 11 assists, whilst the latter managed 12 goals and nine assists. Martial also had his best season in a few years, playing more regular football and tallying 12 goals in all competitions.
At the end of the season, FM22 put out a Best XI for the United squad, pulling out player statistics, league data and other metrics to come to a conclusion. Here's United's best XI from the 2022/23 season.
Full Man United Best XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Eriksen, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes, Elanga; Rashford.
Without Ronaldo in the squad, Rashford and Martial shared the striker role, rotating with each other on a regular basis. Rashford made the best XI as the lone striker though, whilst Anthony Elanga started on the left.
Scott McTominay partnered Christian Eriksen in the double-pivot, whilst Fernandes sat in front of the duo. Lisandro Martinez made the best XI over Harry Maguire, but fellow new signing Tyrell Malacia couldn't get past Luke Shaw for the left-back spot.
Man United's 2022/23 season results
Without last season's talisman, United struggled in the Premier League, making their previous campaign look impressive in comparison. Totalling just 56 points, United finished eighth in the Premier League table, missing out on all European qualification spots.
Two points fewer than last season, United felt the impact of losing Ronaldo after the 37-year-old scored plenty of match winners in the 2021/22 campaign. Ten Hag's side scored eight fewer goals, but they also conceded 15 fewer, showing positive the impact the defensive additions made.
United did eventually earn themselves some European football though, claiming a spot in the Europa Conference League after winning the Carabao Cup. After drawing 1-1 against Liverpool in 120 minutes, a 3-1 win on penalties saw Ten Hag lift a trophy in his first season.
United made it to the Europa League quarter-finals where they were defeated 4-3 over two legs against RB Leipzig, and they were also eliminated in the FA Cup fifth round after a 1-0 defeat to eventual winners, Liverpool.
Overall, if Ronaldo was to leave United this summer without being replaced, Ten Hag's side could struggle, with both Rashford and Martial struggling to replicate the 37-year-old's previous goal return. United did win a trophy in Ronaldo's absence though, but in a long-stretched league season, his goal contributions were majorly missed.
Where do you think Ronaldo will end up come the start of the season? Let us know in the comments below!
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