Man United are learning an uncomfortable truth about Cristiano Ronaldo after Southampton draw

With 14 goals to his name this season, Cristiano Ronaldo has been no Manchester United flop.

However, after his latest flat showing against Southampton on Saturday, the Glazers can be forgiven for thinking they were maybe wrong to secure his signature. Even if it did mean preventing him from joining Manchester City…

When Ronaldo left United in 2009, it was a hammer blow.

Sir Alex Ferguson had managed to prevent the veteran from joining Real Madrid 12 months previously yet the Scot, for all of his powers, was unable to persuade him to hang around.

From the moment he departed, however, United were tipped to bring him back.

Ferguson himself dreamed of such a deal mere months before his retirement, adamant the signings of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale would help him start yet another successful chapter.

Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Ferguson retired instead.

There was talk of United bringing Ronaldo back the following year, when Louis van Gaal took charge.

And the rumours were still there when Jose Mourinho was paraded in front of the cameras, with many expecting a reunion to take place.

In the end, that didn’t happen.

And now, after Ronaldo’s latest poor showing against Southampton on Saturday, the Red Devils may be facing up to the fact they signed the 37-year-old too late.

Had he been at Old Trafford when the likes of Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho were in charge, all three men may have enjoyed better reigns.

After all, Ronaldo was unplayable for Real Madrid during those years – helping the La Liga giants dominate European football with three Champions League triumphs on the spin.

There has been a sense for a few years now, however, that the veteran is starting to wane.

And that was evident against Southampton, with Ronaldo putting in a subdued showing as his side lost more ground in the race to finish in the top four.

There was a moment, in the game, where the Portugal international had rounded Fraser Forster and had an empty net in front of him.

The Ronaldo of old would have finished the chance without even blinking. This version, though, produced a tame effort that was then cleared off the line.

At times, it looked as though the forward was running through treacle. The ball always seemed to bobble away from him, not glued to his foot like it used to be.

And Express Sport gave Ronaldo a low four out of 10 in our player ratings, summing up his dire afternoon.

Had United signed the forward a few years previously, the five-time Premier League winner could have helped lift them out of their slump.

Yet the Red Devils aren’t the team they used to be and, unfortunately for them, neither is their No 7.

Ronaldo touched the ball just 33 times during the match with Southampton, while he also managed a meagre two dribbles.

He lost the ball three times, too, with the veteran no longer retaining possession like he used to during his prime.

Ronaldo also managed just two shots on goal throughout the game.

And if he is to leave at the end of the season, which is a genuine possibility should they fail to qualify for the Champions League, United may actually be better for it.

Ronaldo is a club legend and always will be.

What he did during Ferguson’s spell at the charge means his place in United folklore is assured. Three Premier League titles on the spin and the 2008 Champions League title were won with the forward playing a major, starring role.

Yet the task of steering United out of their predicament appears to be too tough.

And, as a serial winner, it’s hard to see him hanging around. Especially if Thursday night football lies in wait.

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