• Cristiano Ronaldo has started just 4 Premier League games this season
  • He has netted 3 goals and 2 assists in 16 games
  • Man Utd are in fifth place with 23 points

Former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand believes Cristiano Ronaldo may be fighting for fitness and he may return in better condition from FIFA World Cup 2022.

Ronaldo, who has been in the limelight for all controversial reasons this season, had a frustrating outing against Aston Villa as Manchester United ended up losing 3-1. Erik ten Hag showed faith in Ronaldo by making him the stand-in captain in the latest game in the Premier League.

However, Ronaldo was neither inspiring nor did he lead from the front as the Red Devils ended up losing their first league game at Villa Park since 1995.

Backing his former teammate, Ferdinand said that Ronaldo's recent struggles are a result of his absence in pre-season and he expects the Portuguese forward to do well for his country in the Qatar World Cup.

"No one covered themselves in glory at the weekend [against Aston Villa]. Time will tell this season, when you look at the end of the season in terms of goals and what he has done for the team. There are peaks and troughs throughout the season in terms of form. Cristiano Ronaldo right now isn't hitting the net like you are accustomed to seeing him," Ferdinand said on his "Vibe with Five" YouTube channel.

"He is probably fighting for fitness right now as well, if he goes to a World Cup and plays he might come back in better condition than when he left. You don't know," Ferdinand added.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Antony and Jadon Sancho have beaten Ronaldo in Ten Hag's pecking order this season. While Ronaldo has started Manchester United's all six Europa League games, he has so far managed just four starts from 12 games in the 2022-23 Premier League.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has netted three goals and provided two assists in 16 matches for Manchester United across all competitions in the ongoing campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo was Man Utd's leading scorer last season Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images

Manchester United have not relied on Ronaldo for the goals this season despite the former Juventus forward finishing as their leading scorer last season with 24 goals. Following the defeat to Aston Villa, the Red Devils remained in fifth place in the Premier League table, with three points away from the top four and 11 points behind table-toppers Arsenal.