Cristiano Ronaldo is coming ‘home’ to Manchester United after the Red Devils swooped to secure the services of the Portuguese superstar from under the noses of rivals Manchester City. But how will this bold move pan out? Will it be a dream move to return the glory days to United, or is it another Old Trafford financial disaster waiting to happen? Here Gulf News Imran Malik and Matthew Smith look at both sides of the coin:
Ronaldo a perfect fit for any team
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
Have you seen those abs? Cristiano Ronaldo is super fit and in better shape than most 20-year-olds. Even if he was 40 — and at 36 he isn’t far off the big Four-0 — any team would love to have Ronaldo playing for them because he is still the best footballer in the world. He scores the most incredible goals with his right foot, his left and literally hangs in the air like Superman to score with his head.
He has proved himself across all of the top European leagues. His age means nothing because he keeps himself at the absolute peak of physical condition and looks and plays like he is still 26. He can easily do it at the highest level for another three or four years. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner grabbed 101 goals in 134 games at Juventus. He got 451 in 438 games at Real Madrid. In his first spell at United, he scored 118 in 292 games. Man United have found consistency in front of goal difficult and their top scorer last season was midfielder Bruno Fernandes with 23 — and a lot of those were from the spot. They have needed someone to fire from open play and sure, Marcus Rashford is showing signs he can be the man to get them in the future — but Ronaldo is guaranteed to plunder in the goals immediately because that’s what he has done everywhere he has played.
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Aside from that, he will bring a wealth of experience to the team and leadership which they have sorely lacked. It is a youthful squad and needs a far better role model than Paul Pogba. They will be hanging on every word Ronaldo says in the dressing room. His sheer dedication and will to win even at this stage of his career will rub off on the likes of Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Rashford, to whom he’ll play a mentor-like figure. His presence will help the current bunch of attacking players improve their game.
There is no doubt what he will bring on the pitch — but off it he will be a commercial juggernaut and United will reap the rewards. With 333 million Instagram followers, he is one of the most recognisable faces in the world. When he joined Juve from Real, their social media pages posted huge growth hours after the deal was announced. United’s stock market value rocketed by £212 million at one point yesterday. Their commercial revenue is already among the highest in world football but it will continue to spike to record new levels, such is the Ronaldo effect. They will be able to increase their sponsorship deals with the biggest brands out there on the back of the Portuguese superstar. He is a United icon and hero and having him back at Old Trafford will be just the shot in the arm the club has been looking for to get them back to the very top.
Ronaldo move is a disaster waiting to happen
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford has Manchester United fans jubilant and beginning to believe a return to the good old days are right around the corner (including the idiots who are looking for some Sellotape to patch up their burnt United Ronaldo shirts when it looked like he was joining rivals Man City earlier on Friday).
However, for me, there are a few faint alarm bells the United faithful should be listening to — this move could set United back even further.
This is a club that have been in the doldrums ever since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 — one FA Cup, one League Cup and a Europa League title is all they have to show for the hundreds of millions spent on recruits as coaches David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have failed to get them back to the top of the pile.
After a couple of seasons under the Norwegian, who famously grabbed the winner for United in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, there have been real signs of progress at last, finishing second in the table behind City last season and looking strong so far this term.
This is where signing Ronaldo jars. Why bring in a player that could upset that dressing room and a settled team?
On paper, adding Ronaldo to a line-up that included the likes of Portugal teammate Bruno Fernandes and World Cup winner Paul Pogba — they have also added Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane already this summer — looks awesome. But United need to be spending their money on another solid defender, no throwing money on 36-year-old billionaire footballers who will be demanding something like 500,000 pounds a week.
There will be the knock-on effect also as Pogba’s ego will not like megastar Ronaldo in ‘his’ dressing room taking the spotlight and higher wages, and the other big names such as Maguire will be demanding pay increases to match that of CR7.
Oh, and Old Trafford is in a state itself. The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is visibly falling apart and splurging more cash on Ronaldo in the hope of trophies will mean there will be no money for some desperately needed upgrades to the once-great stadium.
The move smacks of fear at Old Trafford. The suits at United — including Ferguson, who reportedly called Ronaldo to convince him to return to Old Trafford — felt they had to pull out the stops to prevent City landing Ronaldo and be perceived as getting into an even stronger position as the dominant force in Manchester. They did it with Robin van Persie, Alexis Sanchez, Fred, Harry Maguire and have done it again with Ronaldo. It was these expensive moves (including extortionate wages) that got United into the financial predicament they find themselves in.
With the exception of RVP — who had one decent season for United when they last won the title nine years ago — all those signings failed to bring glory to Old Trafford. Remember the disaster that was Alexis’ switch from Arsenal and how that was meant to mark the start of a new trophy-laden era? That went well ...
These signings all brought more debt and an empty trophy cabinet. It is a major gamble to expect an ageing Ronaldo to suddenly change all that.
This wasn’t Solskjaer’s signing, it was the board knee-jerking to block City. And it may very well backfire spectacularly. Sadly for Ole, if it does not bring back success, he will bear the brunt of the flop and get the sack — Ronaldo will saunter off with a massive wedge of cash in his back pocket, putting United back to square one and probably even further behind their rivals for yet more years to come.