Twenty-two goals scored in Saturday’s packed Premier League football from the early evening kick-off in India to the late farewell in what was a seven-hour spell of enchanting things. And yet the attention seemed to be turning to Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United.
Turn the clock back 30 days and Manchester United had no interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo. Push it back even further, to early July, and once again Manchester United were never interested in signing Cristiano Ronaldo. But move it to August 23 and there Manchester United was never even linked with a transfer for Cristiano Ronaldo, but Manchester City were.
There were of course no verified sources, but there were still links that Pep Guardiola had moved on from Harry Kane and decided to go after a 36-year-old with no future value. That was almost confirmed by Harry Kane’s Twitter post two days later, when he said: “I will stay with Tottenham this summer and will focus 100% on helping the team achieve success.” It meant all the drama, entertainment and action had just disappeared from a transfer window and Manchester City needed other options.
Suddenly, Manchester United became concerned when fans started burning their old Ronaldo kits, no less in public, much to the chagrin of the other people around them. Talks with Manchester City suddenly escalated and by early Thursday the Cityzens had reportedly done and dusted off personal terms with only a fee agreement left. Then Manchester United arrived on the scene, decided to jump on the storytelling train and produced what can only be called a daring heist.
From right under City’s noses, they took their former superstar back even if, if we are to believe the reports, he was offered to the club for most of this summer.
The rest is history and Cristiano Ronaldo was home late Friday night. Of course the move is subject to medical conditions and an agreement of personal terms, but Manchester United had to make the announcement and show the world that they had won, which they did. It’s the movement that has split a fanbase into two halves; those looking at the move from the morality of it all and those who simply wanted their legend, the man who romanticized and roamed their dreamland, back.
Both have their own place in football and while the moral standpoint is the clear winner, that’s not what this article is about. Since we all know why Cristiano Ronaldo wanted this move, make no mistake, as if one thing is clear: this is the perfect move for him. He arrives at a club desperate for a bona fide goalscorer, with the team almost perfectly set to win, albeit without a few pieces and a manager looking for hope somewhere.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has bravely taken on the challenge where three managers have failed in the past and has successfully managed to waltz the other way, relatively, unscathed and with work intact. That alone is a bloody miracle, but the fact that the club walked out with a team in this form is even more impressive and nothing defines that more than this summer. They’ve signed Raphael Varane for an award that is nothing short of mind-blowing, alongside arguably the best English talent since Wayne Rooney himself.
Add that to Bruno Fernandes, burgeoning superstars in Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, the incredible revival of Luke Shaw and the enigmatic Paul Pogba, and you get what looks like a team. The pieces are all there, arranged in the wrong order and a few missing, but they’re all there to create a beautiful trophy-winning side. They may never be Manchester City or even Liverpool or even the Manchester United of yesteryear, but there is enough to suggest they will be good enough when their time comes.
And yet, as the utterly bland and terrible draw at St Mary’s showed us, this team has poor possession, has a virtually invisible midfield and has Anthony Martial as their striker with a teenager still figuring things out as backup and Edinson Cavani. So for Cristiano Ronaldo it makes sense to get into this team, even at 36 years old, and then there’s that damn story. It takes the focus away from all, very, very, very bad things and instead focuses them on the fact that he is back home.
Like the Friends reunion where everyone seemed to forget they wanted a TV show and not whatever that was, although in the end it didn’t matter because everyone was still watching what that was. That’s exactly what’s happening right now because, well, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo and yet, again, that’s not what this article is about. Because while the longtime drama king likes to be in the spotlight, Ronaldo’s move means Manchester United are about as complete as they could get.
That the team has a chance to compete for the title for the first time in, well, just under a decade, but with Ronaldo, that pressure is mounting. The tap is turning against them as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and co are now dealing with all the critics saying something along the lines of “this is a title-winning side”. That is even if they seem to lack a good defensive midfielder/deep progressor to ease and move the ball from defense to attack, closing a very, very big gap in the team.
Then there’s the fact that they don’t seem to beat low-block teams, something even Liverpool struggled with against Chelsea, or do practically anything when they are dominant in possession. And yet, that’s what the story will be for most of the two-year contract Ronaldo has signed, which isn’t good at all for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But it offers the Norwegian an opportunity, something he may never get again and that is a guaranteed chance of a legacy right now, here at Old Trafford.
Since Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to Manchester United:
– The club’s share increased by 8%. $250m
– His announcement tweet got 1 million likes in an hour
– The club’s official website crashes
What an impact! ? pic.twitter.com/RiL2w8mmyS
— SoccerFunnys (@FootballFunnnys) August 29, 2021
It is the club he claims to love, the club he calls home and the club he has ever played so many games for, but with the Solskjaer problem. And it adds to the fact that he is still referred to as the “LO teacher” in many different parts of football. A derogatory term any way you look at it, but that’s his legacy to those outside Manchester United’s persuasion and Ronaldo offers him a chance to change that.
Don’t get it wrong, this season, and possibly the next, is a clear test to see if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is up to the challenge of attacking and coaching a team well. And the excuses have run out this summer, especially now that the deadwood is no longer so prominent and especially with a team so coherent with an idea of what they want to do. Because the spotlight on the Norwegian will never be as bright as he will be, but it’s not all bad because of what it has to offer him.
As dreams go, this is his best chance to properly fortify himself as a United man, as someone who could one day have his name engraved in stone somewhere at Old Trafford. Win the FA Cup and maybe he’ll just get a statue, win the Carabao Cup and maybe get a grandstand, but win either the Champions League or a league title and a bust is calling out his name somewhere. Win all three, maybe four, and the options are unlimited and the stratosphere is the limit.
Anyway, here’s the dream, 90th minute and you’ve just been given the chance to potentially set up your future and achieve what you’ve been dreaming about for decades. The only question is; will he answer the call? He’s done it once before, but twenty years later, will he do it again?
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