‘Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Manchester United’, these words seemed a pipe dream for anyone who’s followed the club for any length of time. United have officially announced the signing of Fergie’s very own prodigal son, bringing Ronaldo back to the club where he first became the footballing superstar. The last 48 hours have made all United fans go through 180-degree emotions, from despair, anger and denial at the thought of the Portuguese star joining Manchester City to the ultimate joy of seeing him certain to don the Red Jersey at Old Trafford once again.
A quick morning call with Sir Alex Ferguson turned the tables in United’s favour. But the real question is, do United need Cristiano Ronaldo at this stage of the rebuild? And the answer has to be yes. Whatever may be the system that United play or would want to play, a player of Ronaldo’s calibre always adds something to a team. But what exactly is that something. And to answer that question, we need to look at last week’s result.
United drew away at Southampton which is the kind of fixture that you expect them to win. Manchester United made a lot of good chances in the second half but let the game drift away from them in the last 15 mins, and this is where a player like Ronaldo can lift the team with not only his individual performance but by demanding from his teammates. We have often seen the 36-year-old superstar carrying Real Madrid and Juventus in crucial matches, that is what this United team is lacking. Ronaldo’s arrival also gives Solskjaer the room to rotate in the forward line more freely with Edinson Cavani yet to make a start and with the speculation around him missing matches in October after the international break, this signing makes more sense than ever.Embed from Getty Images
Now the other side of the coin is how risky is this transfer is. Manchester United have a peculiar way of playing which involves Bruno Fernandes being at the pivot of all the things that move forward. Disrupting this might have negative consequences. Both Portuguese stars haven’t been able to click together at the International level and often Fernandes has been sacrificed to get the maximum out of Ronaldo in the Portuguese National team.
Solskjaer needs to adapt his system to accommodate both Ronaldo and Fernandes without hampering the overall productivity of the team which might be challenging. Another challenge Solskjaer has is the dressing room harmony, the manager over the past 3 years has been able to harmonize the United dressing room since taking over. With Edinson Cavani already having the no. 7 and filling the role of Centre Forward for last season, Solskjaer must balance both players and their playing time carefully to maintain the upbeat atmosphere in the dressing room.
What the move does hint at however is how the Glazers are trying to win United fans trust with a bad conscience. We have been hearing for the last few days that new signings will only be done if there are few outgoings. But suddenly United’s board negotiated a transfer which will cost around €30m for a 36-year-old forward. Where its clearer than ever after the Southampton match that United need an upgrade in midfield on the “McFred” partnership. But irrespective of Glazer’s intentions, bringing Ronaldo back to United is and will prove to be a great decision. Leaders are always good, for a team that is synonymous with falling at the final hurdle. The more the merrier. Cristiano Ronaldo will bring the experience of playing at the highest level with the highest standards and would help to guide this young United side to some silverware which it badly needs.