Have Manchester United suffered defensively since Cristiano Ronaldo’s return?

  • Man Utd have faced 4.8 shots on target per game since Ronaldo rejoined, compared to 3.7 last season
  • The Red Devils have made less interceptions per game (7.6) as compared to last season (10.2)
  • Their overall tackle rate per game has also dropped since Ronaldo came back

For Manchester United fans across the world, anger and discontent is the order of the day. The club were humbled by arch-rivals Liverpool, 0-5, at Old Trafford this past week and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s time at the helm seems increasingly limited. Their tough fixture list will not do the Norwegian any favours.

Re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo has been the biggest moment for the Old Trafford based outfit but there is a lot of talk about whether that has affected the club defensively. We ran the numbers, comparing Man Utd’s defensive stats, and here’s what they have to tell:

Season  Season 2021/2022Season 2020/2021Season 2019/2020
Games Played  93838
Shots on Target Faced  4.83.73.4
Errors Leading to Goals  0.10.20.2
Clean Sheets  11313
Clean Sheet Percentage11%34%34%
Possession  56.4%55.6%55.9%
Interceptions  7.610.210.0
Tackles  11.614.515.3
Tackles Won  6.88.28.8
Man Utd stats compared season by season

When it comes to core defensive statistics, Manchester United seem to have regressed. They are intercepting less, tackling less and their goalkeepers are also facing more shots on average. Having only kept one clean sheet in nine Premier League games is not a good sign for the Red Devils.

That being said, these stats are only for nine games. The 13-time Premier League winners have to play 29 more games and the numbers can drop. Calling it the Cristiano Ronaldo effect is also jumping the gun, as Solskjær’s defensive line has been without its first choice names for multiple games.

The Norwegian is under immense pressure and needs to turn around results soon if he wants to remain in charge. The Red Devils travel to London to play Tottenham next and a loss could very well be the death knell for Solskjær’s reign.