Cristiano Ronaldo. Credit: Getty.
It was a transfer window that couldn’t really have gone much better for Manchester United, as their summer activity saw them make three quality additions in Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, the Red Devils’ haven’t fared well since their high-profile arrivals, with the club struggling to find form in the early weeks of the new season.
How much is this down to the showings of their new signings and how have they performed so far in a red jersey? We’ve decided to take a look at just that, and rate their respective starts to the 2021/22 season.
However, since making his league debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the third outing of the season, Varane has missed just one game, the League Cup loss against West Ham United.
It hasn’t been the most settled start for the former Real Madrid man, who lost his centre-back partner Harry Maguire to injury and has also played alongside Victor Lindelof at the heart of defence.
Varane’s best performance for United so far arguably came in his debut against Wolves, the only game this season where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have kept a clean sheet. In general, his best form has come in the Premier League, and the 28-year-old also performed well against West Ham and Everton.
However, his showings in the Champions League haven’t been quite at the same level, with Varane losing Moumi Ngamaleu in the box for Young Boys’ opener in the 2-1 loss, while he was fortune not to cost United a goal against Villarreal when his misplaced touch allowed the ball to run through for Paco Alcacer’s one-on-one chance.
Player rating: 7
Overall it’s been a good start for the defender, who has taken quickly to English football. After a few more months adapting to a new club and league, plus forming a partnership with Maguire, Varane’s performances will only continue to improve.
Of the three new signings, Sancho has started slowest after the big build-up from his time at Borussia Dortmund.
It still feels like Solskjaer is easing the England international into life at Old Trafford. Only once has he played 90 minutes and he’s started half of United’s 10 games in all competitions, with just two starts in the Premier League.
Yet his spells on the pitch have resulted in no goals or assists so far from nine appearances, and he’s registered just 0.7 expected goals and 0.3 assists across those games, which will be a concern for Solskjaer. Sancho is also yet to produce a ‘goal creating action’ for United.
However, his stats are much better when it comes to dribbling. Sancho has completed eight dribbles so far - a number which is bettered by just three team-mates - and only United four players have made more progrssive ball carries, all of whom have played significantly more minutes than the England international.
It is still early days for Sancho, who at 21 is trying to adapt to a new club, league and style of play. His cameo against Everton last weekend contained some good moments and supporters shouldn’t get too frustrated with his slow start.
Player rating: 4
Slightly harsh on the ex-Manchester City youth product, but ultimately he’s yet to make a telling contribution so far on the pitch for the Red Devils.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been all about goals for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner since he returned to United. He’s managed an impressive five in six games (and five from five starts), which is an average of a goal every 93 minutes.
He’s also provided some important strikes: the openers against Newcastle United and Young Boys, the equaliser at the London Stadium and most memorable the injury-time winner at home to Villarreal.
His mere presence has geed up the Old Trafford crowd at times and his influence on the United dressing room will only continue to grow.
But the issue for Ronaldo is when he isn’t scoring goals, he doesn’t contribute much to the side. In fact, Nemanja Matic, who has played 140 fewer minutes, has had more touches of the ball, while Varane has produced more progressive ball carries than the Portugal captain. Also, no United player has miscontrolled the ball more times than Ronaldo this season.
He’s made just one tackle and completed two interceptions all season, while his tally of five successful pressures is lower than Daniel James, who played just two games before moving to Leeds.
Obviously, Ronaldo isn’t in the team for his defensive workrate, but if he’s not scoring goals then the 36-year-old can be something of a burden for his United team-mates.
Player rating: 8
Ultimately Ronaldo is in the team to find the back of the net and that’s exactly what he’s done. Just over an average of a goal per 90 minutes is phenomenal and should he maintain that throughout the season, then the Red Devils’ scoring stats should soar.
*Stats courtesy of Transfermarkt & FBREF.