If it isn’t clear yet, the 2021 summer transfer window has been well and truly crazy. How often does it happen that the captains of Real Madrid and Barcelona go on free transfers to join the same club? To make things even more realistic, many top sides have spent huge sums to land just one player – see Chelsea and Manchester City as examples. The choppy nature of the window continued when Cristiano Ronaldo was set to join City, only to make a massive U-turn and join former club Manchester United instead. This was a move no one saw coming, yet here we are. Ronaldo is the Red Devil once again and City miss out on a high profile goal yet again.
In a way, Ronaldo’s return to United has made more sense than his move to City. Sure, he may have won plenty of trophies at City – but the bridges with United would be seriously scorched if not completely burnt.
As things stand, he has grown in stature among United fans. And he will walk into a side that, for all intents and purposes, looks set to challenge for major trophies this season.
But, apart from the obvious disinterest in bringing home the former great, Ronaldo’s signing could potentially transform the club in a number of ways.
Cristiano Ronaldo – serial winner and elite talent
The first, of course, is that it is a statement signature, a signature that reflects actual intent. It is also a departure from United’s recent transfer strategy under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In recent seasons, the club has focused more on squad-building for the present and future. This means signing relatively young talents and developing them over time.
Even some of their biggest signings – Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho being prime examples – are players who are expected to be around for a long time. Not Ronaldo though.
The Portuguese superstar remains in tip-top shape, but Father Time waits for no one. As such, it is fair to assume that the 36-year-old will not form the backbone of United’s long-term success.
However, United desperately need his experience. The core of their squad is either young talent or players reaching their prime years. Ronaldo is already at his peak and has played – and won – many big games in his career.
This is something that could prove invaluable not only for the club but also for the young players. Many people would have grown up watching Ronaldo and now have the chance to play with him.
There is also hope that his elite mindset and ruthless streak will rub off on a squad that is seen as in need of an edge. For whatever progress United have made in recent seasons, silverware has proved elusive.
Signing a proven winner like Ronaldo, however, guarantees to have a little something extra for the big games. It was a lack of proven game-winners that arguably prevented them from winning the Europa League last season.
Now though, the club has a player with plenty of trophy-winning experience – and a hunger to win more.
a point to prove
Arguably the main reason Cristiano Ronaldo wanted out of Juventus was the fact that the side have regressed over the last three years. And while many blame Ronaldo himself for this, it is simplistic to do so.
Yes, there is no doubt that he was part of the issue. Ronaldo may be a supreme genius, but the industry will never be a part of his game.
However, there is no doubt that Juventus’ balance and size were affected due to the adjustment of Ronaldo. Of course, the flip side of this is that the club doesn’t often shoot itself in the foot in other ways.
There was no coherent transfer strategy during Ronaldo’s time at the club, which meant that the squad was fragmented on and off. To make matters worse, there was no stability in the managerial chair either.
It is worth remembering that in three seasons at Juventus, Ronaldo played for three different managers. It is not and never will be the basis for long-term success.
As a result, Juventus went from being a team that reached the final of the Champions League to being eliminated in the quarter-finals – and even in the round of 16.
Ronaldo has made little secret of his desire to win the Champions League again, and will be desperate to fire the side to European glory.
It’s worth remembering that the last time United won the trophy, it was Ronaldo’s side. And it was a very different player than what is coming back now.
The current Ronaldo not only brings a pedigree of winners but also has a point to prove. And an elite player with fire in his belly is a dangerous proposition for opponents.
Can United do more in the transfer window?
Having said that, it is worth noting that signing Ronaldo alone may not have been the wisest use of the money available. The side is in dire need of a new central midfielder and it would be good to add one before August 31.
This is, of course, easier said than done. But relying on Fred for the entirety of the season seems like a silly proposition.
That also seems like an area where United are really lacking. Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes bring goals and creativity, and don’t forget about Donny van de Beek as a reserve option.
Yet the club lacked a midfield general – someone who could operate as a deep-lying playmaker or defensive midfielder. Whether he can get such a signing in such a short span of time, it will be a matter to be seen.
But those are concerns for another day, at least for United fans. Because Cristiano Ronaldo is back.