While Cristiano Ronaldo has impressed for Manchester United this season, scoring 14 goals from 25 appearances since returning to Old Trafford, there is a sense the magic might be starting to wane. Should he fail to net against Burnley at Turf Moor, it’ll be his longest goal drought for a decade. Therefore, retirement may be edging closer – even if the veteran would hate to admit it.
Ronaldo has been a shining light amid a difficult season for United, with his goals helping them stay in the Champions League League and remain in contention to finish in the Premier League top four.
Yet his poor performance against Middlesbrough on Friday saw him criticised by fans and pundits alike.
Not only did Ronaldo miss a penalty, he also squandered numerous chances as his side crashed out of the FA Cup.
With the 37-year-old now another year older after celebrating his birthday on Saturday, it begs the question: Is he finally losing his touch?
Should he fail to score against Burnley on Tuesday night, he’d have gone five games without a goal. For him, that’s simply not good enough.
There’s talk of Ronaldo quitting United at the end of the campaign should the club’s malaise see them miss out on the Champions League and end up in the Europa League or, worse, the UEFA Conference League.
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“I want to find out if I’m going to play until I’m 40, 41, or 42.
“But the most important thing is that my daily goal is to enjoy the moment.”
Ronaldo also recently won an award for becoming the top scorer in international football history.
And the veteran indicated he had four or five years left in him, which would bring him to the age of 42.
“The people sometimes ask me how many more years I’m going to play, and I say I hope to play four, five more years. It’s all about mentally,” he said.
Upon winning the Special Award, he added: “It is a dream. First of all, I have to say thank you to my teammates in the national team in the last 20 years that I used to play with.
“The record was 109, right? So six ahead. I am so proud. It is a special award from FIFA – an organisation I respect a lot. I also have to thank my family. Soon I will be a father again. I am proud. It is great to be the goalscorer of all time.
“I still have the passion for the game and to score goals.
“I play football since I was five years old. When I go to the pitch, even in training, my motivation is still there. Even 37 soon, I feel good.
“I keep working hard. I love the game and have the passion.
“I want to continue. I hope to play maybe four or five years, It is all mental.
“If you treat your body good, when you need it, it will give back.”
United, if they get their act together and turn their season around, could still have Ronaldo for another half a decade.
Yet his recent performances suggest he’ll struggle to become the player he used to be.
United will go up against Burnley hoping for a third league win in a row under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
Ronaldo is aiming to start as the Red Devils look to build on victories over West Ham and Brentford before the winter break.