Cristiano Ronaldo has limited playing time under new boss Erik ten Hag, and fitness could be part of the reason. While the superstar has started all three Europa League games for Manchester United, he managed just one spot in the starting XI during Premier League play. The lone start was the embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Brentford in August.

The Portugal international received 60+ minutes at the weekend against Everton. However, he only arrived as an early substitute because of an injury to Anthony Martial. Ronaldo, however, made the most of the opportunity and scored his first league goal this season. That goal was his 700th in his vaunted club career.

The manager claimed on Wednesday that his star player was not fully fit at the start of the season. “At the start, it was the case [lack of fitness],” ten Hag stated during a press conference. “It’s proven once again, no one can miss a pre-season.”

“I want to support [Ronaldo] as good as possible,” continued the coach. “We have certain demands from players, what we expect in certain positions. I want to get the best out of him. He’s in better shape now and I’m happy with that.”

Ten Hag claims lack of fitness for Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s start to the season has certainly been rocky. Along with his diminished playing time, a lot of his statistical averages per 90 minutes are career lows so far. 

At 37, most players are not as explosive as they once were. However, Ronaldo’s dribble success rate in Premier League play is just 25% at the moment. Last season he managed to keep a respectable rate of 53%. During his time with Juventus, Ronaldo was averaging a dribble success rate of around 60%.

Along with beating opposing defenders for pace, Ronaldo also has current career low averages in progressive carries, progressive passes, and goal-creating actions. The superstar currently has a shot on target rate of just 27% as well. His previous career low in this category since the 2017-18 campaign was 34%.

Ten Hag and Manchester United fans will be hoping that Ronaldo has shaken the dust off heading into a busy period of play.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage