Manchester United made some moves during the transfer window which suggested that they had serious ambitions on a title run this season. Jadon Sancho has earned rave reviews in Germany since moving there to play for Dortmund in 2017. The 21-year-old England international made the Bundesliga’s team of the year in 2019, and is expected to bring a dynamic attacking option to United from the right wing.
At 28 years of age, Frenchman Raphael Varane is an experienced centre back who has played more than 300 times for Real Madrid, not to mention being a World Cup winner with France. Varane can slot into the centre of defence for the Red Devils and show – as he did against Wolves at the weekend – that he will make a rock-solid addition to the side.
So far, so good. Now all United needed was a strong defensive midfielder – (Declan Rice would’ve been perfect if West Ham hadn’t priced him out of the market), maybe a top-class keeper to put the pressure on De Gea, and of course a goal-scoring centre forward. The young Norwegian powerhouse Erling Haaland is the name on top of most footballing wish lists, while Harry Kane would surely have been happy to swap Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for Old Trafford. Perhaps Kylian Mbappe could be prised away from PSG’s team of Harlem Globetrotters?
But no, instead of these, Manchester United stunned the footballing world by signing 36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.
Reasons Why the Ronaldo Move Makes Sense
Now there are plenty of very good reasons for the United board to believe that bringing Cristiano back to Old Trafford makes a lot of sense. Sadly, very few of these have anything to do with what happens on the pitch.
Within 24 hours of joining Juventus in 2018, the club had sold 520,000 Ronaldo shirts and added 1 million followers to its Twitter account. Considering that Juve sold a total of 850,000 over the course of the entire 2016/17 season, that is quite an impressive tally.
It is reasonable to assume that United will be able to shift at least as many units, once the whole squad number thing is sorted out. Cavani wears the number 7 shirt right now, and unless the Premier League agree to bend their rules regarding changing numbers for registered players, Cristiano will have to make do with another number this year. Not a major headache for United though, as they can ensure even more sales next year when Ronaldo is given back his number 7.
The Portuguese is a star attraction on social media as well as on the pitch, so little surprise to hear that United’s Insta account attracted another 2.5 million followers in the 12 hours since the signing was announced.
Plus the whole ‘Glazer Out’ business seems to have been very much put on the back burner. Remember the ‘storming of Old Trafford’ which happened back in May in protest against the American ownership group? That seems to have been forgotten as waves of fans take to various social channel to make pronouncements such as ‘I am crying right now’ upon hearing of the return of their Prodigal Son.
Wrong Player, Wrong Time…
The problem with all this gushing sentiment is that the version of Ronaldo which will return to Old Trafford is not the same footballer who left 12 years ago. The tricksy winger with a lightning burst of pace has been replaced by a penalty box loiterer who is not going to be killing himself tracking back to defend. Cristiano has certainly not lost his eye for goals, as an incredible 81 goals in 98 appearance for Juve will attest, but that doesn’t mean that he is the player United need right now. For starters, more than a quarter (23) of those Juventus goals were scored from the penalty spot, so his compatriot Sr. Fernandes had best be prepared to relinquish that particular duty.
Man United do traditionally earn a lot of pens, so by the season’s end Ronaldo may live up to the very short odds of 5/1 on his finishing up as the Premier League’s top scorer.
However, this doesn’t look like a signing that is going to propel Manchester United to the top table of English football, and may even end up doing more harm than good.
Having said all that, I have to admit that when Ronaldo steps onto the pitch for United on September 11th against Newcastle – along with the rest of the footballing world – I’ll be watching!