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Cristiano Ronaldo

Man Utd star Ronaldo told what he might need to do to keep playing into his 40s by 1999 Treble winner Sheringham

6:58 PM GMT+8 11/03/2022
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd 2021-22
A former Red Devils striker that only hung up his boots after reaching the age of 42 sees no reason why a modern-day great cannot do likewise

Cristiano Ronaldo may have admitted that he does not have “many years” left in a remarkable career, but the Manchester United superstar continues to hint at playing into his 40s and Teddy Sheringham believes a change of position could aid the Portuguese’s cause.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has already completed one transformation, having morphed from a tricky winger into one of the greatest goalscorers of all-time, and it may be that he considers another tweak to his game in order to achieve the longevity he craves.

Ex-Red Devils striker Sheringham, who formed part of the fabled 1999 Treble-winning squad at Old Trafford, believes Ronaldo is capable of playing on for at least three more years as he remains in peak physical condition and retains an insatiable hunger for success.

How do you play into your 40s?

Asked by GOAL on what the likes of Ronaldo will need to change in order to remain at the top level beyond his 40th birthday, Sheringham, who hung up his boots at the age of 42, said in association with Lord Ping: “You don’t have to do an awful lot. I was always told to enjoy what I did for as long as I can because you are a long time retired – blimey how right they were! You just have to keep doing what you do.

“It takes its toll on your body over the years, but it is a lot of mind over matter. It’s going to be tough, you know that and your body gets tired quicker. As long as you have still got the desire to get out there and do it, and shrug off those little injuries that you get along the way, that’s what it is all about – the desire to carry on. There will come a time when you think ‘you know what, it’s too much for me’.”

Would a positional change help Ronaldo?

For those seeking to extend their playing days for as long as possible, it can be as much about character as it is fitness – with the likes of Gianluigi Buffon and Zlatan Ibrahimovic showing in Italy that competitive nature can carry you a long way.

Positional tinkering also helps, with Sheringham adding on Ronaldo’s bid to stay at the top: “They are slightly different players – Buffon is a goalkeeper and Zlatan is a very stationary player. He obviously has good movement in short bursts but he has never used his pace like Ronaldo has. I would think it will be a little bit harder for Ronaldo to carry on doing what he’s doing when compared to Zlatan because they are completely different.

“You can see at the moment that things aren’t quite going right for Manchester United as a team, so Ronaldo within that is finding it hard to use his best assets – and his best assets are not as sharp as they used to be. You become bogged down a little bit if you are still trying to use things like pace.

“I think it’s going to be a tough one for Ronaldo. He’s obviously still got the desire, but the way he plays the game with his bursts and speed – a lot of power as well but he uses his speed over the years to go past people – he hasn’t quite got that.

“Players do change their set up – John Barnes was a winger who played out-and-out left wing for Watford, Liverpool and England but once his legs started going, he changed his game and moved into midfield and dominated there in a completely different manner that you probably wouldn’t have expected to happen. Ronaldo might have to do that. Maybe he is changing his game at the moment and will go on in a different position.”

United legend Ryan Giggs played into his 40s after accepting that change was required, with a once flying winger seeing more outings as a central midfielder towards the end of his career.

Sheringham said of his former team-mate: “Giggs was similar. He played in central midfield quite a lot, but he still had running power about him because he holds no weight whatsoever so he was a very agile player even then and could still go past people. He changed his game slightly.”

Will Ronaldo remain at Manchester United?

While questions of his position can be answered at a later date, in the present there are plenty of rumours to be found regarding an imminent change of scenery for Ronaldo.

He only returned to England for a second spell with United in the summer of 2021, but an emotional homecoming has not played out as planned and – despite committing to an initial two-year contract – there has been talk of him heading through the Old Trafford exits again after just 12 months.

Sheringham said of the exit speculation, with the Red Devils currently playing under interim boss Ralf Rangnick: “It all depends on who is going to be the manager. If they get another stop-gap in then it will be more concern for him that the club is not being led properly. It wouldn’t be ideal for him.

“It’s a strange situation that he finds himself in back at Manchester United. It must be very, very different from when Sir Alex was there and running everything – everything was a tight ship all sailing together. It seems like there are lots of fragments at Manchester United all going their own ways and there is no leadership anywhere. It’s not ideal for Ronaldo to come back into that.

“I would think that if it carries on like this until the end of the season and he has a chance to go somewhere else, I think that could probably happen.”

Pressed on whether such a move could take Ronaldo to the United States, with links to MLS and David Beckham’s Inter Miami having lingered for some time, Sheringham said: “Maybe, who knows what goes on in people’s minds. He might want to break records for longevity and might want to enjoy his career by going to a different climate. But if it carries on the way it’s going at United, I don’t see him staying there.”

United, who will be back in action when playing host to Tottenham on Saturday, sit fifth in the Premier League table at present, one point adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal but with the Gunners holding three games in hand as the race for Champions League qualification hots up.

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