Man Utd's reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo compared to Big Six rivals explains problem
Cristiano Ronaldo's future is just one of the many questions facing incoming Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
The decision to re-sign the Red Devils legend has been consistently questioned throughout the season, despite the 37-year-old leading the club's scoring charts. Ronaldo has continued to defy his advancing years and has netted 23 times in all competitions, including six goals in the Champions League.
This goalscoring return has not stopped some from asking whether Ronaldo's return has been to United's benefit, given their ongoing struggles. Recent defeats to fierce rivals Liverpool and Arsenal has all but ended the prospect of a top-four finish under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
However, a quick examination of the goalscoring record of the 'Big Six' has suggested United have a different Ronaldo problem. Data collected by the British Gambler has listed each side's goal tally so far this season, and the percentage of which has come from their top goalscorer.
It provides an interesting perspective for Manchester United fans, given the debate over whether Ronaldo has proved to be a problem on the pitch. The former Juventus and Real Madrid striker has contributed 31.48% of his side's 53 goals this season.
Only Tottenham out of the traditional 'Big Six' have a greater reliance on their leading goalscorer, with Son Heung-min's tally of 17 strikes representing 30.36% of their team goals. Relegation-bound Norwich City have the greatest reliance on their leading scorer by far, with Teemu Pukki's 10 goals accounting for 45.45% of their overall total.
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Digging into the numbers, this dependence on Ronaldo hints at one of the many issues facing Ten Hag and his rebuild project at Old Trafford this summer. This return of almost a third of their goals from just one player places United 17th in the table, above only Spurs and relegation candidates Norwich and Watford.
The names of the leading goalscorers indicates the Premier League as a whole has begun to move away from the need for a traditional number nine. Ronaldo is just one of a handful of out-and-out strikers to feature, along with the likes of Raul Jimenez, Jamie Vardy, and Callum Wilson.
Liverpool and Manchester City unsurprisingly lead the way on team goals with 85 and 80 respectively. Mo Salah has enjoyed a stellar campaign to date but still only accounts for 25% of the Reds' goals, while Kevin De Bruyne's return of 11 equates to a league-low of 13.75% of the champions' goals.
Chelsea's tally of 67 goals so far places them third in the list, with summer signing Romelu Lukaku struggling to make an impact. This has led to a similarly low dependence on any one player, with top scorer Mason Mount responsible for 14.93% of their goals.
Ronaldo has delivered and could likely to do for another season, but the trend of one out-and-out striker looks to be on the decline. Manchester United's 'Big Six' rivals have proven this need for goals throughout the team, and it is one of several areas ten Hag will likely consider this summer onwards.
The Red Devils are now six points adrift of the top four, and their nearby rivals all hold games in hand. Rangnick's side are next in action against Chelsea on Thursday night, and wrap up the season with clashes against Brentford, Brighton and Crystal Palace.
The 'Big Six' top scorers
Manchester City (80 team goals) - Kevin De Bruyne (11 - 13.75%)
Chelsea (67 team goals) - Mason Mount (10 - 14.93%)
Arsenal (52 team goals) - Bukayo Saka (11 - 21.15%)
Liverpool (85 team goals) - Mo Salah (22 - 25.88%)
Manchester United (54 team goals) - Cristiano Ronaldo (17 - 31.48%)
Tottenham (56 team goals) - Son Heung-min (17 - 30.36%)