Cristiano Ronaldo has stunned the footballing world by making a return to the Theatre of Dreams 13 years after his move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009. Negotiations were ongoing with arch rivals Manchester City for a shock move to the Etihad but a late fallout in negotiations meant Manchester United swooped in to secure the services of the talismanic Portuguese who won three premier league titles with the club in his first stint.
So, what does signing Ronaldo mean for Manchester United?
Are United serious Title Contenders now?
United have been in and around the top end of the premier league table but have never been in any tight title race since they last won the league during Sir Alex’s last season in charge in 2013. In the last 8 seasons since, David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho have all come in and pushed for the title without avail. On the back of disappointing seasons after seasons under different managers cult hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed the interim manager in 2019. The appointment was made permanent at the end of the season and the Red Devils have shown considerable improvements. However, it has been a long time since United has been talked up in the bracket of serious title contenders. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in the January of 2020 certainly lifted the team but United were still found lacking in many areas of the pitch.
This season, the acquisition of the world cup winning defender Varane from Real Madrid and the form Pogba has shown in the early stages of the season has provided reasons for optimism among the United fanbase. And now, the X Factor signing of a serial winner in Ronaldo has givenUnited’s title aspirations a big shot in the arm. There’s genuine hope this time around that the signing of the five time Ballon d’Or winner will be the catalyst needed for United to bring home their title no 21. The mood in the dressing room will change and the jury is out on whether Ronaldo will be able to inspire the red devils to a famous title winning season.
Is this really the way forward for United?
The biggest failure of the managers that have come in post Sir Alex’s era has been the inability to rebuild the team by phasing out deadwood and letting youngsters make the step up. Sir Alex Ferguson was known for his ability to constantly rebuild the team without damaging the core. Youngsters from the academy seamlessly made their transition into the first teams often replacing players that were past their primes. Of late, only Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Mason Greenwood have been able to make the step up from the academy to regular first team football.
The recruitment under Ole has also been relatively short term with the board going for a mix of aged experienced players and young talents. United signed players such as Ighalo and Edison Cavani who were past their primes to replace a young Romelu Lukaku who was nearing his prime. Thomas Heaton, another ageing player was signed this season as back up for David De Gea and Dean Henderson between the sticks. The same goes with signing an ageing Ronaldo who is, without doubting his ability, in the autumn of his career at 36. United have a plethora of young attacking players at their disposal with players such as Greenwood, Rashford (injured), Martial, Sancho and signing Ronaldo at this current juncture would derail the careers of these young players who would have to sit at the bench for the global superstar to start. The ethos of United’s recruitment and management of academy players seems to have been thrown out the window in recent years.
And while, in the short term, a more experienced side can win United some coveted silverwares, the biggest question is the sustainability of such projects. Will there be another regress at United like they did after Sir Alex left the club? That is the biggest question.