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The three Manchester United players who are ‘scared to shoot’ because of Cristiano Ronaldo

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Former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor believes Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United has had a negative impact on the development of Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.

Agbonlahor has made the admission following United’s disappointing 1-1 draw against Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Monday evening, in which they needed a second half equaliser from Edinson Cavani to seal a point.

United were second best for almost all of the contest and struggled to carve out any clear-cut chances in the first half, despite boasting an attacking quartet of Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Greenwood and Ronaldo, with Greenwood being replaced at half-time by Cavani.

Despite scoring twice on his return to United against Newcastle earlier in the season, Ronaldo failed to impose himself on proceedings at St James’ Park and headed straight down the tunnel at full-time, opposed to going over and applauding the travelling contingent of away fans.

Ronaldo experienced a frustrating night on Tyneside and opportunities in front of goal were hard to come by, despite him always wanting the ball played into him.

However, Agbonlahor, who retired from playing back in 2018, has raised concerns about Ronaldo’s presence at United, insisting he has had a damaging impact on the progression of England trio Sancho, Greenwood and Rashford.

“It looks to me like Ronaldo just cares about his goals,” Agbonlahor told Football Insider. “That performance from Ronaldo was somebody sulking all game. He was throwing his hands up in the air because he wasn’t getting chances.

“Then after the game, he runs off the pitch sulking and I imagine he’s sulking in the changing room.

“His attitude was off. If I’m Rashford, Greenwood or Sancho, I’m scared to have a shot. Every time they have a shot he’s got his arms up to say ‘Why haven’t you passed to me?’

“The harmony is not right in that changing room. The form of Rashford and Greenwood has dropped since Ronaldo has been there. They can’t express themselves. It’s like they think ‘I have to pass to Ronaldo, I have to create a chance for Ronaldo’.

“Before Ronaldo came, Greenwood was taking players on and shots on and he’s not doing that anymore and getting dragged at half-time.

“If I was Rashford, Greenwood or Sancho I’d be saying to myself ‘Oh, why did we have to bring him here?’

“He’s an amazing player who has had an amazing career but he’s not the same player he was.”

With the fixtures over this current festive and New Year period continuing to come thick and fast, interim manager Ralf Rangnick is likely to make changes when Burnley visit Old Trafford on Thursday evening.

For Agbonlahor, Ronaldo ought to be axed from the starting line-up against the Clarets.

He added: “Man United played their best football of the season against Chelsea with Ronaldo on the bench.

“Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho can play as a front three rotating positions and running in behind.

“If the manager had anything about him, he’d drop Ronaldo for the next game.”

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Manchester United

Manchester United injury latest as Ralf Rangnick waits on two players for Aston Villa

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Aston Villa return to action on Monday when they travel to Manchester United for an FA Cup third round clash at Old Trafford.

Both sides are expected to make a raft of changes as the Premier League takes a break after a hectic fixture schedule and coronavirus outbreaks caused havoc over the Christmas period.

The two teams happen to meet the weekend after in the Premier League at Villa Park and there is likely to be one eye on that game too.

Villa could switch things up and give game-time to fringe players like Anwar El Ghazi, Kortney Hause, Jed Steer and Cameron Archer.

United, meanwhile, may make changes but interim manager Ralf Rangnick is under pressure even at this early stage of his career following the 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this week.

Rangnick will be keen to avoid another loss at Old Trafford with Villa already notching up a win at United this season.

He could bring back captain Harry Maguire into the starting line-up who, like his centre-back partner Victor Lindelof, missed Wolves.

Maguire missed the game with a chest injury picked up against Burnley last week with Raphael Varane and Phil Jones stepping in because of Lindelof’s absence and Eric Bailly missing out.

Lindelof returned a positive Covid-19 test and Bailly is set to join up with the Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Rangnick could therefore be without Lindelof, Maguire, Bailly and Paul Pogba, who is out injured with a thigh injury and will miss Villa.

Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are suspended for the Premier League game meaning they will likely play in the FA Cup clash with Villa.

“Victor was still positive, so it was clear since yesterday morning that he would be out and Harry, he received that knock on his chest or whatever, in the game against Burnley so we thought he would be good again for tonight,” Rangnick said.

“But, yesterday, he was just trying and it was impossible. He even had too much pain when he was just standing around or sitting. It wasn’t possible for him to play.”

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Fred’s strike is United’s Goal of the Month

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Fred has deservedly won Manchester United’s Goal of the Month award for December 2021.

The Brazilian midfielder curled home a delightful effort from the edge of the area, to give the Reds a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, in what was Ralf Rangnick’s first game as interim manager.

Our no.17 hasn’t been the most regular of scorers since signing from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018, with that strike at the beginning of the month taking him to six in a red shirt, from 140 appearances so far.

As the man himself noted after the game, it was also a rare goal with his weaker foot.

“It’s always good to score in a game, but today we win 1-0 and it’s nice that my goal can be so important,” Fred told MUTV’s Stewart Gardner, in a post-match interview he conducted in English.

“With me being left-footed, sometimes I try with my right. Mason gave me a good ball and, in that moment, I just looked for the goal and it happened. I’m very blessed.”

Fred received 31 per cent of the vote from supporters in our poll, with team-mate Mason Greenwood second on 21 per cent, for his acrobatic effort against Young Boys in the Champions League.

Another long-range strike – Scott McTominay’s opener versus Burnley in last week’s 3-1 win – took third place.

While David De Gea was named Player of the Month once more, following on from Cristiano Ronaldo’s September-October double, we have now had five different winners in the Goal of the Month category for 2021/22.

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Star out – Man Utd’s strongest possible 4-2-2-2 XI vs Burnley

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Manchester United are 7 points behind Arsenal, who currently occupy the last Champions League qualification spot, and the Red Devils do have a couple of games in hand.

Tonight, Ralf Rangnick’s men will collide against Burnley hoping to return to winning ways. Who will come out on top?

As far as the team news is concerned, star playmaker, Bruno Fernandes, is out due to suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign against the Magpies.

To replace the Portuguese international in the lineup, we can expect summer signing Jadon Sancho to return and partner Marcos Rashford in the attacking midfield.

Cavani found the net vs Newcastle United in the last game and the Uruguayan superstar should replace Mason Greenwood to start with Cristiano Ronaldo up front.

The likes of Fred and McTominay should start again in the center of the park. On the other hand, the back-line would likely remain unchanged in front of in form shot stopper, David De Gea.

 

Here is Man Utd’s strongest possible 4-2-2-2 XI vs Burnley:

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