Manchester United legend Bryan Robson has discussed the club’s current woes, while also criticising the ‘heresy’ of blaming Cristiano Ronaldo for those struggles.
The Red Devils are undergoing something of a crisis period at present, having suffered a succession of damaging defeats in recent weeks, notably losing comfortably to both Liverpool and Manchester City in their last two Old Trafford outings.
While United remain just five points off the top four despite their current slump, they are now nine points off leaders Chelsea with a title challenge now looking out of the question, having initially looked like being a genuine contender after an impressive summer of recruitment.
Such a drop off after finishing second last season has unsurprisingly piled the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and sparked speculation regarding a potential managerial change, although he is set to remain in the dugout for the club’s next fixture against Watford.
According to former captain Robson – who enjoyed a hugely successful 13-year stint at the club – Solskjaer needs to somehow revive his team’s fortunes and get his side playing on the ‘front foot’ again on their own turf.
“Ole has to get us back to where he was with the team before this slump,” he said in an interview with the Mail.
“It will take hard work but that’s what managers are paid the big money for. With the players he’s got, United are best-equipped to be a team who defend deep and counter-attack at pace. As they did in taking Spurs apart the other day — but that was at the Tottenham Stadium. This is OK playing away but it’s not enough at home.
“United need to be on the front foot at Old Trafford. Ole found the balance between good defence and the kind of football which pacifies our fans. He did it before. It’s up to him to do it again.”
The 64-year-old also rejected the notion that the signing of Ronaldo has been a factor in the club’s recent demise, with some having been critical of the Portuguese’s work off the ball, despite netting nine goals in just 12 games in all competitions already this season.
“It beggars belief that people are blaming Cristiano Ronaldo. Heresy,” he said. “Where would we be now without his genius? Without his goals, including the best three of the season so far? We’d be out of the Champions League and in the bottom half of the Premier League. This is what he was bought for and why he’s a fantastic signing, regardless of age.”
Robson insisted that United can afford to have a ‘luxury’ like Ronaldo in the side due to his outrageous goal record, the Englishman pointing to the free role that midfield star Paul Gascoigne was handed under Terry Venables at Euro 96.
“I don’t recall any commentators knocking Jimmy Greaves for goal-hanging. Scoring goals is the most difficult aspect of football.
“I always believed when I was a manager that if you had a player who could guarantee goals — let alone one as special as Cristiano — you could afford to have that one luxury in your team.
“Let the rest get on with helping each other and supplying him with the ball to work his magic in making and taking goals. That’s the job for the genius. At Euro 96, England’s players were all happy to do that for Paul Gascoigne. One thing I told Gazza was to calm down, forget about defending. Leave that to others. Focus on winning the matches.”