Scoring one goal in 10 matches is not a situation Cristiano Ronaldo has found himself in often – if at all – during his career so far.
What is worse for Manchester United is that their star man’s drop in form comes amid the club continuing to huff and puff in the Premier League in their bid to finish in the top four.
Interim boss Ralf Rangnick labelled last weekend’s home game against Watford a ‘must win’, meaning the subsequent goalless stalemate was yet another missed opportunity.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) has scored just one goal in his last 10 matches for Manchester United, leaving Anthony Elanga (left) instead to providing the attacking impetus for United
The Portugal international was at the centre of those difficulties at Old Trafford at the weekend, wasting a presentable opportunity early on, and then allowing it to play on his mind as he was caught offside several times in his attempts to atone for his error.
If anything, United’s attacking impetus came through 19-year-old Anthony Elanga.
He may not have been able to replicate his goalscoring exploits against Roy Hodgson’s men that he demonstrated against Leeds and Atletico Madrid, but he showed drive and energy that was otherwise lacking from Rangnick’s men.
‘What I like about him, and what I see constantly and more and more with him, is he plays and runs,’ ex-defender Rio Ferdinand said on his Vibe with Five podcast.
How Elanga and Ronaldo have compared in the Premier League – graphic by SofaScore
‘There’s an intensity to his game that I really like, you always find it with young players who just get into the team, they just don’t stop running.
‘He plays and runs, he’s on the move, he causes disruption to the opposition defenders.
‘At the weekend, a bit more composure in his finishing, but you could say that about Bruno [Fernandes] and Cristiano as well, and we would have had a few more goals as well. I think you have to credit him massively.’
Elanga did receive plenty of adulation for his performance, putting himself well in contention to start against Manchester derby on Sunday.
So what do the statistics suggest about his performances, and to what extent is he outperforming Ronaldo? Sportsmail takes a deeper dive into the numbers.
Elanga’s energetic display in what was otherwise a tepid performance against the Hornets from United was his 10th Premier League appearance of the season.
Half of those matches have seen him named in the starting XI, while he has scored twice following goals against Brentford and Leeds.
His 37-year-old team-mate Ronaldo meanwhile has scored nine goals along with recording three assists in 23 top-flight games in 2021-22.
However, the goal in the 2-0 win at home against Brighton last month remains his only Premier League goal of 2022, while all three assists also came in the first half of the season.
And statistics provided by Opta demonstrate the extent to which Ronaldo has not only faltered in their 10 most recent league matches, but also the extent to which Elanga has excelled at United.
Elanga has scored against Leeds and crucially against Atletico Madrid in recent weeks
On the face of it, there doesn’t appear much to report with Ronaldo’s strike against Burnley meaning he matches Elanga’s goal tally over the last 10 Premier League games.
He also has an assist registered against his name after assisting Scott McTominay in the 3-1 victory against Sean Dyche’s men, while his 19-year-old team-mate has yet to register any assists for the first team.
However, a further crunching of the numbers demonstrates the profligate nature of Ronaldo’s attacking play lately.
The Portugal international has fired off 33 shots at goal in his last 10 top-flight games, 20 more than Elanga has managed in his changeable role in the side.
But of those 33, just nine have been on target, while 12 have not troubled the opposition goalkeeper.
Ronaldo’s only goal in his last 10 Premier League games came in the victory against Brighton
No doubt, Elanga’s seven shots off target do not make ideal reading either, but the statistics for Ronaldo highlight a player trying – perhaps at the expense of his side’s fortunes – to up his goalscoring return.
Ronaldo’s shooting accuracy still comes in at a fairly respectable 43 per cent – though not by his ridiculously high standards – while Elanga’s sits at 36 per cent.
But the 19-year-old wideman’s shot conversion rate stands at above 15 per cent, while Ronaldo’s is only just above six per cent.
Ronaldo’s aerial ability has always been an attribute he has been able to call on due to his impeccable hang time, but he has managed just two headers on target compared to seven off target.
But the greatest demonstration of Ronaldo’s form evading him is the seven big chances he has missed – compared to just the one scored – in his last 10 Premier League appearances.
Ronaldo has also been wayward in the air, failing to make the most of his incredible leap
He has therefore netted only one such chance, while Elanga shares his results from four big chances equally between scored and missed.
Unsurprisingly, Ronaldo’s big chance conversion rate sits at just 12.5 per cent as a result, while Elanga’s comes in at 50 per cent.
No doubt Ronaldo has experienced some misfortune hitting the woodwork on a couple of occasions during the last 10 games, yet Ronaldo would struggle to find an excuse for a minutes per goal ratio of more than 400 minutes, especially with Elanga’s at 231.
Ferdinand’s praise for Elanga for failing to stop running is reflected in the statistics, especially compared to his senior team-mate Ronaldo.
Elanga meanwhile has attempted plenty of dribbles and has caused havoc in defences
In the last 10 games, Elanga has attempted 19 dribbles compared to Ronaldo’s nine. They may both have completed six, but it nevertheless demonstrates the verve of youth trying to cause havoc in defences.
This is not to suggest that Ronaldo has totally dropped off in every aspect of his game. He has still created 12 chances in the last 10 games, three of which have been deemed big chances.
A passing accuracy above 80 per cent and 17 penalty area entries suggest he is still determined to make things happen up front.
But that passing accuracy is towards the bottom of the best rates among United players this season, while the likes of Fernandes, Luke Shaw, Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba have created more chances than him this term.
Ronaldo reportedly asked Ralf Rangnick to give him a strike partner rather than be left alone
Perhaps it is a combination of these factors that has reportedly led Ronaldo to ask Rangnick to give him a strike partner rather than be left alone up front, as has been the case in recent weeks.
That partner cannot be Edinson Cavani at the moment due to his injury concerns, while Marcus Rashford appears to be lacking confidence.
Fernandes meanwhile looked unsuited to the role when deployed as Ronaldo’s partner during the first few matches under Rangnick, in which the German used a 4-2-2-2 formation.
The question remains now whether Rangnick sees and believes he has seen enough from Elanga to risk him centrally as a potential option, given that his work has usually come from the right.
Team selection will no doubt be critical ahead of this Sunday’s Manchester derby, and how effectively these two players play may well have a huge bearing on the result.