Gabriel Agbonlahor thinks six Manchester United players are benefitting from the decision to regularly leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. The Portugal international has started just two of his side’s seven matches across all competitions so far. He’s yet to score, either, with the club’s young guns now central to Erik ten Hag’s plans at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo, who wanted to leave United back in the summer transfer window, has endured a frustrating start to the season.
He’s yet to score from seven appearances and, against Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday night, drew a blank as his side slipped to a 1-0 defeat.
Without Ronaldo, United have looked a team transformed – winning their last four Premier League matches.
And Agbonlahor, speaking to Football Insider, believes Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Antony, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford are all benefitting from their No 7 being left out.
“Man United look a lot better now, they look more organised and like they have a better team spirit,” he said.
“Everyone was calling for Man United to drop Ronaldo and play players who want to press and they are reaping the benefits.
“United will be fancying themselves on their recent form to get into the top four.”
Ronaldo will be hoping to feature when United lock horns with Sheriff in the Europa League on Thursday night (5.45pm).
And he’ll also be aiming to get off the mark at the eighth time of asking.
There is a growing sense, however, that the Portugal international is the odd one out when it comes to Ten Hag’s attack.
United have looked far more fluid and slick without the 37-year-old in the team, with Rashford in particular benefitting.
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The England star has netted three goals from six Premier League matches this term, including efforts against Liverpool and Arsenal.
And a source has told The Sun that Ten Hag thinks the 24-year-old can score 20 goals this season and propel the club to title glory.
“The manager wants Marcus to be United’s No 1 striker and lead the line up front,” they’re quoted as saying.
“He believes Marcus has the ability to become one of the world’s best and wants him to express himself in matches.
“He is always telling him to use his pace and skills when he gets a chance. He told Marcus he will easily score 20 this season.
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“They have a great relationship and Marcus is really happy.”
Furthermore, the insider also claims United players are delighted at the decision to regularly leave Ronaldo on the bench.
“As long as Ronaldo starts on the bench, the players have the confidence to express themselves,” they added.
“With Ronaldo on the pitch, the team feel pressured. All the players loved it when Ronaldo came back but they’re frustrated he missed pre-season.
“Ronaldo’s not up to speed and relies on instinct — but that doesn’t work in Ten Hag’s system.”
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