Cristiano Ronaldo is a Manchester United player once more. A turbulent day in this already crazy transfer market has seen Cristiano Ronaldo sign for former club Manchester United, just hours after he seemed destined to sign for city-rivals, Manchester City. In a day that would have been fit for the yellow tie of deadline-day hype man, Jim White, Ronaldo has put his legacy above an almost instant guarantee of silverware at City.
Ronaldo is said to have been contacted by a number of United players, past and present, in the past 24 hours, including legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, in order to persuade him to return. Ronaldo has secured his legend status at United when it looked as though he was set to tarnish it so badly with a move to City. This could well prove to be very sensible, and was the obvious advantage that United had in persuading Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford. This is a transfer shrouded in romanticism and could give the club a real lift, but it could also be a decision that hinders United in the long term. Perversely, the fact that they have snatched the five-time Balon D’or winner from under their neighbour’s noses is perhaps as important as the fact he will wear United red this season.
Ronaldo Would Have Been Short-Term Solution to City’s Striker Crisis
Manchester City are desperate for a striker after their long pursuit of Harry Kane was dropped this week, with Kane confirming he would be staying at Tottenham Hotspur this summer. Daniel Levy showed why he is deemed one of the most difficult people to negotiate with in the game, by refusing to even enter into talks with City’s hierarchy. This tiresome game of cat and mouse saw City miss out on any potential opportunity to sign Lionel Messi following his Barcelona departure and prevented them from testing the waters with Erling Haland, such was their obsession with Kane. It also was one of the key reasons they let club legend Sergio Aguero leave for free at the end of last season. Now they are left with only Gabriel Jesus as a senior striker in the squad; a player who has recently expressed his desire to play wide. Manchester City will not have the sympathy of anyone in football, such is the financial might they have, but their star-studded squad could well struggle without a striker.
Pep Guardiola will no doubt adapt. He spent large parts of last season without either Aguero or Jesus available due to injury and, even when they were available, he often opted to play without a recognised striker. However, he had the option to change things if it wasn’t working. Currently he can’t. At least not by bringing on a conventional centre forward. Ronaldo would have been the perfect, short-term, solution. A focal point to the attack, there is no point questioning if Ronaldo would score goals. His career is evidence that he has earned the right to avoid these questions.
At 36, Ronaldo has had to adapt his game. He is not the flying winger that terrorised full backs as he did when he left the Premier League 12 years ago. He is an out and out striker. A ruthless, relentlessly efficient, striker. His time at Juventus is viewed by some as something of a failure, due to the club’s lack of success in Europe in this time, however this is nonsense. Ronaldo has been playing in the weakest Juventus side for a decade and, despite this, has scored 101 goals in three seasons at the club. Add these goals to City’s attack and you have all but guaranteed the Premier League trophy would return to the Etihad in May, and the Champions League trophy could well have joined it for the first time in the club’s history.
Ronaldo Move Could Cause United Issues Long-Term
One of the arguments that divided fans regarding Ronaldo’s time at Juventus was whether having him at the club hindered the development of the team in other areas. As mentioned, Ronaldo scored a lot of goals and offered a whole host of vital contributions in his time in Turin. On the other hand, did his wages and the fact his goals papered over the cracks of a poor Juventus side stop the Old Lady from making signings that would set the club up for the next few seasons? This is the trap that United could fall into.
There is no doubt that United need a prolific goalscorer if they are to return to past glories. Ronaldo offers that if supplied; sometimes even without being supplied. However, at 36 he is far from a signing with the future in mind and the haste at which the transfer was completed makes it seem a very reactionary signing from United. With Ronaldo joining Edinson Cavani as strikers in the twilight years of their career at the club, this may mean that United do not pursue other targets in the forward area when prior to securing Ronaldo they may have.
Everyone is talking about Erling Haaland, and the scramble for his signature next summer when his release clause drops will be fascinating. United may not be able to be involved in that scramble as a direct result of signing Ronaldo. Manchester City will try to secure the Norwegian’s signature with even greater ferocity after missing out on Kane and Ronaldo. Ronaldo sets United up for the next one or two seasons, Haaland sets his next club up for the next ten. Haaland is not the only young striker in the world, contrary to what transfer gossip columns may have you believe, but the concept applies to any young strikers United may have been tempted to pursue.
United’s strategy could just work, however. Ronaldo joins fellow summer recruits Raphael Varane, from Real Madrid, and Jadon Sancho, from Borussia Dortmund. This is the best transfer window United have had in the post-Ferguson era by a huge margin and there is real star quality on the red side of Manchester once more. These are winners too, and that is vital for any dressing room.
The potential strategy from United, though, is this. Mason Greenwood is a hugely talented player who, all being well, will go on to become a world-class striker. He’s not at that level yet, but he is scoring regularly, whether that be from wide or through the middle. He has no doubt benefitted from learning off the master of movement that is Edison Cavani, and now he will be able to learn from one of, if not the, best to ever play the position. Ronaldo’s contract is two years, in two years Greenwood will be 21; which is still incredibly young for a striker. He will be a far better player for it though, and this could be United’s thought process behind the deal. They could spend a massive sum on a striker in the next two years, or they could allow Ronaldo to carry the forward line until Greenwood is ready and save the club a fortune by doing so. By this logic, it could be a very sensible move from the United hierarchy.
Whether United have put this much thought into the transfer is up for debate. It may simply be a case of heart ruling the head for those associated with the club, and it is difficult to blame them if this is the case. Snatching the Portugal great from City’s grasp will be pleasing for United fans, but nowhere near as pleasing as seeing Ronaldo don the red jersey of their club once more. It was already going to be a gripping Premier League season, but this signing has just turned it up a fair few notches.