Gary Neville, a Sky Sports analyst, said Cristiano Ronaldo looked like a “little kid” against Liverpool, and changing the way he played against Tottenham worked for him.
Manchester United moved from 4-3-2-1 to 5-3-2 in their tough match against Tottenham, losing 3-0 in a convincing win.
Key to their performance was a second place up front from Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani, as the Portugal legend thrived having a partner in attack at his side.
Neville thought a different system suited him.
“There is no doubt that this is not Ole’s plan,” Neville said. “Leaving Sancho, Rashford and Greenwood on the bench is not the plan.”
“That wasn’t the plan in recruiting, and that wasn’t Ollie’s plan how he thought he was going to play.
“He’s played 4-2-3-1 in the last 37 games, and that’s not his plan to go 5-3-2.
“But changing the system, it seemed to suit Cristiano Ronaldo. It took the pressure off him from a defensive point of view.
Unveiled in the past few weeks, he’s been asked to pressure, and he can’t do it.
Gary Neville on Ronaldo
“When I saw him up front against Liverpool last week, or against Leicester alone, he looked like a little kid.
“But today was a perfect fit for him to play in those moments. Today was a good day for him, not just for the goal, but because he looked like he played in a team he was a part of.
“In the past few weeks, he’s been exposed, asked to pressure, and he can’t do it.”
Earlier, Neville praised the team’s form – but it was crucial that it took 5-0 at home to arch-rivals Liverpool to come up with this decision to alter the flair.
“I think none of the midfielders they put together in the fourth defense at the moment are not capable,” he said.
“I thought Varane did a great job in strengthening the back line.
“I thought that made the midfielders more confident in pressing and getting the ball back.
“But the big difference was that Cavani and Ronaldo are close to the midfield and support four.
“They’ve been about 30 meters from the back in all matches and in the last few weeks it’s been about 45/50 meters – you can drive a bus through them.
“There’s been a massive change this week, but why did it take a really bad performance to get to this point? It shouldn’t” That should take away the quality of the player and manager they have.
“I was shocked that it took six, seven, eight weeks of really poor performance and an inept attitude to defend without the ball.
Why did the coach take it to the brink of resigning, why did the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool need to get into defensive form?
“I don’t know why it took so long for the coaching staff to ask players or players to step up and do it, but it shouldn’t take long.
“They did something today that they haven’t done all season and it looks like he’s half a team without the ball.”