PAUL MERSON COLUMN: New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag will struggle to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo with the style of play he plans to introduce at Old Trafford next season
Cristiano Ronaldo should have gone to Paris Saint-Germain to form a dream team with Lionel Messi this summer – because Erik ten Hag’s revolution can’t start until Ronaldo has left Manchester United in my opinion..
And Ronaldo isn’t winning the title at Old Trafford so why stay anyway? He doesn’t have many years left to win the big prizes. Imagine him at PSG with Messi. They’ve spent years being rivals. It would be fun to watch them end their careers as team-mates.
And you keep hearing that Neymar could be leaving PSG so you could have a forward line of Messi, Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe! It would be Harlem Globetrotters stuff but that is what they do there – and Ronaldo would be guaranteed to win big trophies again.
It’s probably the best place for him. And they would be on the TV every single week all over the world because everyone would want to see that. They probably still wouldn’t win the Champions League because while Messi and Ronaldo have been the best players in the world for years, they’re not any more.
Messi only scored six goals in the French league last season. He used to score six in a week in Spain. But those three up front are a Playstation football team. It would be fun to watch.
It isn’t fun to watch Ronaldo at United. Ronaldo’s at an age now where he’s not going to go and close players down. Before Ronaldo came, United were a team full of players closing down and counter attacking with unbelievable pace, energy and skill. But they couldn’t do that last season with Ronaldo.
I know he scored a load of goals. People said he’d done his job. The thing is, surely United would rather win the league with Ronaldo only scoring a handful of goals than finish a million miles behind with him getting a hatful.
That’s like building a house and saying you’ve got nice windows, but the roof hasn’t been put on properly. It doesn’t work. Ronaldo was standing around laughing sarcastically against Brighton last season as if he was saying: ‘What am I doing here?’
But there aren’t many places he can go. Manchester City have got Erling Haaland now. He’s not going to Liverpool. PSG are about the only ones. Don’t get me wrong. Ronaldo is one of the best players of all time. Even last season I watched him and at times and thought: ‘Wow he’s so far off it.’ And then he goes bang and scores and you’re like: ‘How did you do that? You haven’t touched the ball for 25 minutes!’
The bloke is special. He has such self belief. I think mentally he is the strongest player there has ever been in the game. I think Messi is different. I think he was born with his talent. Ronaldo has had to work at it. You can watch videos of Messi scoring unreal goals as a kid. It came naturally for him.
With Ronaldo it’s been sheer hard work and dedication. But there won’t be a revolution at United next season under Ten Hag with Ronaldo there. He’s a year older and if he’s asked to close people down, he just isn’t one of those players. It’s going to be hard. The manager is going to have exactly the same problems as the last one did.
Raheem Sterling is going to be a big miss for Manchester City next season and it’s a big gamble letting him go. He scores a lot of goals for you from tap-ins. Close-range finishes at the far post. People say that’s easy. But there’s an art to that and it isn’t easy to replace.
Sterling is the only City player who does that. Jack Grealish doesn’t. If the ball goes to the far post he’s still standing on the byline. Riyad Mahrez just scores worldies really. He doesn’t get tap-ins. I think City are going to miss that. I really do.
And Chelsea don’t play the same way. The ball doesn’t go fizzing across the goalmouth 15 times a game there. So you’re taking away maybe ten to 15 goals from his game that he’ll have to find from somewhere else, doing something different. Sterling is better than anything else Chelsea have got.
So he will improve them. But that worries me a bit. If they get Raphinha, that’s a big adjustment too. It might take him time to settle because he’s used to playing with freedom at Leeds and he’d have to fit into a structure.
I also don’t think Richarlison is the right signing for Tottenham – but Steven Bergwijn would be a big hit for Everton. I don’t get why Spurs are going for Richarlison. I’m not his biggest fan. I think he has his moments but he goes missing sometimes as well. He also misses a lot of chances, his goalscoring record isn’t great, and I don’t see where he plays for Tottenham.
He doesn’t get in ahead of Harry Kane. He doesn’t get in ahead of Heung-min Son. And Dejan Kulusevski was one of their best players last season. I know you need a squad but Richarlison will want to play every week. It surprises me they are going for him. But it doesn’t surprise me that Everton want Bergwijn. He never got a real run in the team at Spurs. But I think he can play and he might be a nice surprise for Everton. He’s quick and he’s creative and he scores goals and I think he would fit in nicely at Goodison Park.