This morning, Cristiano Ronaldo seemed certain to join Man City. This evening, Man United have announced they are re-signing him.
Ronaldo will doubtless score more than the six goals Sanchez managed in 18 miserable months in Manchester. Manchester never felt like home for Sanchez whereas it was home to Ronaldo for six years.
“I’m coming home,” Ronaldo said after Real Madrid were drawn with Manchester United in the 2013 Champions League knockout stage. A homecoming seemed possible that year and United pulled on Ronaldo’s heartstrings on his Old Trafford return, the stadium compere announcing his name last. Ronaldo was startled and felt ‘shy’. He still scored the winner.
It seemed the United ship had sailed, though. As of this morning, Ronaldo seemed bound for Manchester – to City. Then Sir Alex Ferguson intervened and, once Ronaldo was aware of United’s interest, he rejected City. Ronaldo may regret selling his Alderley Edge abode in early 2019.
Ronaldo was not on United’s shortlist at the start of the summer as they expected him to see out his contract with Juventus. Once it became clear he was available, they reacted with alacrity.
HOW CRISTIANO RONALDO’S RETURN TO MANCHESTER UNITED HAPPENED
The Glazer family knew the seismic signing of Ronaldo would be the ultimate feel-good story in a year their treachery over the Super League provoked protests outside and inside Old Trafford. Ronaldo’s return is similar to the starry signing of Tom Brady for the Glazers’ NFL franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last year. The Bucs won their first Super Bowl in 18 years in February.
Senior United sources say Ronaldo believes the club is building towards a new era of success, despite going more than four years without winning a trophy. Ronaldo won everything during his six years with United between 2003-09 but has ‘unfinished business’.
There are familiar faces in the Carrington dressing room and on reception, where Kath Phipps still sits. Ronaldo posed with former teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s children for a picture in Cardiff in 2014 and Michael Carrick, another old teammate and now first-team coach, requested a signed shirt from Ronaldo for his son, Jacey. Darren Fletcher broke into the United team in the same season as Ronaldo, the pair pivotal in the uplifting 2004 FA Cup semi-final triumph over Arsenal at Villa Park.
United were already expected to challenge for the title on the strength of the signings of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Now they will be expected to win it. They have prevented City from recruiting their fall-back option up front and Ronaldo outscored Romelu Lukaku last season.
United are adamant Ronaldo is not a nostalgic signing and insist it is ‘about writing a new chapter in the club’s and his own history’. They did not need another forward and Ronaldo immediately becomes their highest earner on a £480,000-a-week two-year contract at a time United are trying to convince Paul Pogba to commit.
Yet if ever there is an exception to be made, it is for Ronaldo, a world-class footballer, prolific goalscorer, serial winner, and leader. United believe Ronaldo, at 36, can also aid the development of their younger players.
PEP GUARDIOLA RESPONDS TO CRISTIANO RONALDO TRANSFER SPECULATION
United are not concerned by the impact Ronaldo could have on other forwards and have stressed this is likely to be ‘a long, hard season ahead and there will be plenty of games to go round for all of the attacking talent in our squad’
Still, their attacking options include Ronaldo, Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Daniel James, and Jesse Lingard. That is unsustainable now, never mind until the January transfer window, and they have still not sold a single player this summer.
The club has already clarified Cavani will not leave. The number seven is likely to be vacant next year, though.