When Cristiano Ronaldo made his sensational return to Manchester United last summer, it was billed as the final piece in the jigsaw for a club seeking to rediscover its former glories.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had secured a second-place finish in the Premier League and with big-money acquisitions Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane also coming in, a push for league title number 21 and the first since 2013 was being considered as a realistic possibility.
But six months on, Solskjaer has been sacked and Ronaldo is enduring his longest goal drought in over a decade as the Red Devils crave consistency, struggle to find the net and toil for a top-four position.
The Portuguese forward has still got some vital goals for the side this season, but the dream return is fast turning into a nightmare, with interim boss Ralf Rangnick stating openly that United’s need for a striker in the summer is an “obvious” one.
Asked after United’s 1-1 draw against Southampton whether he was worried about Ronaldo’s form, Rangnick told BBC Sport: “He would have wished to have scored, I would have wished him to score, the whole team would have.
“He had good chances – one of the biggest chances in the game when he went past the goalkeeper but it was cleared.”
‘Ronaldo’s record speaks for itself’
The chance Rangnick mentions came in the sixth minute, when Ronaldo went round Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster but a weak left-footed shot was cleared off the line by Romain Perraud.
Sancho did give the hosts a 21st-minute lead but for the third consecutive game they failed to press home their superiority and were pegged back for a draw by Che Adams’ second-half equaliser.
In all, Ronaldo had just two shots in the game, the second coming from an angle and fired straight at Forster.
United may have been cruising to victory had he taken either opportunity, but he now finds himself on a run of six games without scoring, his longest barren spell in 11 years.
Former Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “Ronaldo is United’s most likely to score goals based on history, he has proved that. But that isn’t based on his performance today – we have hardly really seen him today, but you don’t bring him off, because of his history.
“Manchester United have a lack of identity at the moment. They just don’t know what they are doing. It is hit-and-hope stuff a lot of the time.”
Former England international Fara Williams said on Football Focus: “Ronaldo has to play [every game]. He is a scorer.
“All this hype around Ronaldo being a negative part of what is happening at Manchester United, his record speaks for itself. You have got to play him.”