How Manchester United could replace Cristiano Ronaldo

Although Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact, influence and future at Manchester United may be up for debate, all of the club’s fans can agree that Erik ten Hag will need to use this summer to future-proof his attack. 

Here are a few options to replace a player often called irreplaceable…


The obvious replacement(s)

The most obvious way to replace Ronaldo is to bring in a striker of Ten Hag’s choosing. As we’ve covered here, the new United manager has used a variety of players as the No 9 and is not afraid to change his tactical approach to get the best out of the man leading the line. For example, during the Champions League knockout stages of 2018-19, he used Dusan Tadic as a false nine, which created space for his team-mates.

There is no fixed idea of what a “Ten Hag striker” is, but if the United manager wished to replace Ronaldo with an out-and-out centre-forward then Napoli’s Victor Osimhen is a worthy candidate.

Using smarterscout data — which gives players a rating from zero to 99, relating to either how often they do a given action compared with others playing in their position (such as the ball recoveries and interceptions) or how effective they are (such as how well they progress the ball upfield) — we can take a closer look at the Nigeria forward.

Osimhen is one of the most sought-after young strikers in Europe, known for his dribbling (look at his carry and dribble volume of 91 out of 99 in the pizza chart below) and his propensity to get a shot away (shot volume, 99 out of 99). 

At the time of writing, Napoli are believed to be an outside candidate for Ronaldo’s signature. A direct swap would be an administrative headache, but if Ronaldo were to end up in Naples, it may give United a head start in any negotiations for Osimhen.

Tammy Abraham would be another outstanding choice for United and Ten Hag, but is only one year into a five-year contract at Roma and would be harder to extricate.  

If United did move on Ronaldo and his hefty wages this summer, they could have some extra spending money for a striker of Osimhen or Abraham’s quality. 


The short-term fix

Jose Mourinho had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had Odion Ighalo, Edinson Cavani and Ronaldo. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United have signed several strikers in their 30s as short-term fixes for attacking needs.

The success of each veteran is varied, but if Ten Hag wants such a player, then Jamie Vardy, who has no new contract offer from Leicester City and only one year left to run on his deal, should be considered. 

Author: Lucy Green