The video went around the world. A few hours before the official return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Red Devils, Friday August 27, an excerpt from a Mancunian fan burning his CR7 jersey made the buzz. The video was actually from 2017, but it reflected the feelings of Mancunian supporters in recent days.
It must be said that until Friday noon, Cristiano Ronaldo was dangerously close to a signing with the sworn enemy, Manchester City. “The idea that he signed in City was like torture for United supporters”, explained Friday Gary Neville, former great player of the Red Devils, on British television. Within hours, therefore, Manchester United managed to convince the Juventus striker to join the club where he grew up from 2003 to 2009, and won the first of his five Golden Balls, in 2008.
The sweet words of the current Manchester United coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who was also Ronaldo’s teammate in the mid-2000s – did not fail to have their effect. “He’s the best player of all time, if you ask me”, Solskjaer explained at a press conference on Friday.
A high-flying transfer window
The high-speed seduction operation worked and Manchester United did not hesitate to steal a symbol, one that weighs several hundred million euros in marketing, from its neighbor City. In addition to recovering one of the legends of its history, author of 118 goals in 292 games over six seasons, Manchester United at the same time confirms its rediscovered ambitions.
Welcome 𝗵𝗼𝗺𝗲, @Cristiano 🔴 #MUFC | #Ronaldo
The rivalry between the two Manchester City clubs has looked lopsided in recent seasons, with a clear advantage for City, winners of three of England’s last four leagues. For its part, the Red Devils have not won the Premier League since 2013. An eternity for the former club of Sir Alex Ferguson, who had retired that same year.
With Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United supporters can dream of a new coronation. The Portuguese is no longer the same player as during his first visit to England. And at 36 – he will be 38 at the end of his contract in 2023 – he no longer has his legs of yesteryear. But the striker remains a formidable scorer, a player made for the win and able to transmit this state of mind to his teammates.
Above all, the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo confirms the very large recruitment made by Manchester United this summer. With Jadon Sancho, Raphaël Varane, “CR7” and no departure to regret, the Red Devils have probably managed their best transfer window for a very long time.
With these reinforcements of weight, Solskjaer now has a workforce cut out for the title of champion of England, even if the competition from Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea will be very tough. In all positions, the Norwegian coach of the Red Devils can count on experienced players, such as Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire or Marcus Rashford.
The only uncertainty: the second midfielder who will have to accompany this season Paul Pogba, who started the season with a bang (five assists in two games). But the extra soul of a Cristiano Ronaldo could help hide certain shortcomings that Manchester United would display, which could not do better than a draw on the lawn of Southampton in the 2e Premier League day (1-1), a week after a convincing victory against Leeds (5-1).
The Champions League, the other goal
Second in the championship at the end of the 2020-2021 season, Manchester United can therefore aim higher this season thanks to its XXL recruitment. But it is also in the Champions League that the Mancunian club will have to find color. Since 2014, the Red Devils have reached the quarter-finals of the C1 only once, in 2019, after eliminating Paris-Saint-Germain in the round of 16.
The biggest of European competitions will certainly be one of the last career goals of Ronaldo, top scorer in a C1 that he has already won five times. With Villarreal, Atalanta Bergamo and Young Boys Bern in its group, Manchester United is also the favorite for first place and qualification for the round of 16.
After his trip to Wolverhampton on Sunday 29 August, Manchester United will host Newcastle on 11 September, after the international break. The opportunity, perhaps, to see Cristiano Ronaldo wearing for the first time in twelve years the jersey of the Red Devils, in an Old Trafford stadium which will never wear its nickname “theater of dreams” so well.