Erik ten Hag has said Cristiano Ronaldo has the ‘capabilities’ of scoring as many goals this season as he managed in the 2021/22 campaign.
The Manchester United forward bagged 24 in all competitions last term but is on just three so far from 13 appearances since Ten Hag’s arrival. After missing the majority of pre-season, it was a slow start to the campaign for Ronaldo who was still building up his fitness in the early weeks, and struggled to find regular game-time.
He’s played more often since the start of September, however, and scored his first league goal of the season earlier this month in the 2-1 win over Everton. Ronaldo would need another 21 goals between now and May in order to equal last season’s total, but Ten Hag believes it is an achievable target.
“It’s up to him,” said the United manager. “But I think when you collect all the chances he creates, the team creates for him in the last weeks, you see he’s still capable to get in the right positions and he’s still capable of finishing them. I think it’s possible, yeah.”
Ronaldo has started just two of United’s 11 league games this term but has been selected in the starting XI in all five Europa League matches. Despite that, Ten Hag insisted the Portugal star is not a player who is predominantly reserved for European matches.
“I know some see it like this but I don’t have a Europe team and I don’t have a Premier League team. I look at the opponent and what we need, what suits the opponent,” he said.
“Now I have to focus on West Ham United for Sunday. We will pick the team to start but also have a plan B or plan C in the pocket to win that game. That’s what we need finally, to win games, and for that we not only need 11 players, we need the whole squad.”
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Ten Hag was also asked about how his side will go about breaking down West Ham’s organised defence, something they failed to do in the recent home encounter with Newcastle United.
“We have to be really good on the ball, be really dynamic especially to find gaps. We are aware of that,” he responded. “You have to be good because they are good on counters. From there, [tonight against Sheriff Tiraspol] was a good warm-up for Sunday, which will be much more difficult.”