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Manchester United benching Ronaldo comes as ‘no surprise’, emphasizes NBC pundits Danny Higginbotham

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Manchester United are not missing Cristiano Ronaldo, claims former club defender Danny Higginbotham, adding that Jadon Sancho would not have scored the decisive goal of the match against Leicester had the Portuguese superstar started ‘on the pitch’.

Boss Erik Ten Hag named an attacking front four on Thursday evening, consisting of England internationals Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, as well as the younger Anthony Elanga and Bruno Fernandes.

It is the third game in a row in which Ronaldo, 37, comes off the bench. The last time the Portuguese started a game for the Red Devils was in a 4-0 loss against Brentford. Since then United have racked up nine points against Liverpool, Southampton and now Leicester City.

“That’s probably one reason why we haven’t seen Ronaldo play, and that’s not a lack of respect for Ronaldo. The first goal, I don’t think they score that when Ronaldo is on the pitch, the way they press, the intensity, the signings all impress too,” Higginbotham told USA Today at halftime.

Danny Higginbotham believes Man United will benefit from Ronaldo on the bench

Ronaldo, 37, has not been named in Man United’s squad since the 4-0 defeat to Brentford

“Martinez has a great relationship with Varane. We also saw the left back position, Malacia. Eriksen just goes from strength to strength so everything is really good for Manchester United,” added the former Stoke City.

Ronaldo only came into the second half of Thursday’s game at King Power stadium 68 minutes into the second half, shortly after James Maddison’s free kick was saved by David De Gea.

The Red Devils still created chances as Ronaldo appeared on the pitch, but the 37-year-old tried a daring bicycle kick in the 83rd minute.

Manchester United's Jadon Sancho scored his side's first and only goal against Leicester City

Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho scored his side’s first and only goal against Leicester City

Ronaldo came in for striker Marcus Rashford only in the 68th minute of the second half

Ronaldo came in for striker Marcus Rashford only in the 68th minute of the second half

Higginbotham’s fellow NBC pundit Tim Howard believes Ten Hag is creating an identity at Old Trafford by allowing Ronaldo to make room in the starting lineup for younger players, giving them the chance to shine.

“Yeah, you know when you talk about creating an identity — the reason they’ve won these last two games is the energy in the front four,” said the former USMNT, Everton and Manchester United.

“We’ve talked about that high-intensity pressing, running through the gears, finding pockets that play forward, running forward. If you are going to lay a foundation at your football club that can never fall.’

“You can have bad performances, maybe pass here or there. You may not reach the goal, but your energy level has to be high and we have seen that in the last two and a half games for Manchester United, so it is no surprise,” he added.

In his post-match comments, the American expressed his joy at seeing his old side win again, just as he experienced under Sir Alex Ferguson when he played between the sticks for the Red Devils between 2003 and 2004.

Tim Howard believes Erik Ten Hag is restoring Man United's identity by playing youngsters

Tim Howard believes Erik Ten Hag is restoring Man United’s identity by playing youngsters

However, he expects improvement as the season progresses.

“Yeah, listen, it’s not perfect. It’s another zero that they had to grind, which in itself tells the story and that’s a good thing,” Howard further told NBC.

‘But you can build on performance, on results. He said three wins in a row there. It is the first time they have won back-to-back away games in almost a year. And by the way, Casemiro looks really really good. Anthony is coming, I have the feeling that Bruno Fernandes is back to his old self, who has swagger back.’

“For me, at the top of Rashford and Sancho, they play more freely and with more energy. So the plan looks like it has an identity now, which I probably questioned about four weeks ago saying “what’s the plan? What’s it supposed to look like? It doesn’t have to be the finished product, but we need to know what it looks like.” Now I see that’

Thursday’s win put Manchester United just outside the top four, in fifth place, as the club climb steadily in the Premier League after a disastrous start to the new season, having suffered losses to Brighton and Brentford, in which Ronaldo were both matches started. .

“Yeah, I don’t see him being a bit of a part-player and walking around chasing lost cause for 20 minutes like he did tonight. I can not see it. That story will be told as it unfolds,” Howard concluded, elaborating on Ronaldo coming off the bench.

The Red Devils are now just a point behind Brighton in fourth place, facing leaders Arsenal at 11:30am EST on Sunday.

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