Ronaldo - a romantic signing or the last piece in the jigsaw?

Published: Tuesday, 31 August 2021

I’ve spent all day thinking of things to write about other than Ronaldo - or Cristiano as half the world knows him. For Madrid fans there’s only one Ronaldo and it’s not the one United have just signed. Anyway - after the stunning events of last Friday it’s impossible to discuss anything else.

I’m a fan. I’m a huge fan of Ronaldo’s. I’ve always said - of the two incredible talents that we’re privileged to have watched this past decade - him and Messi - he was always my favourite.

In my opinion, what gives him the edge is that he’s conquered three of the five big leagues. He’s never ducked a challenge. He’s been awesome. The header that he got, when he was in the air for what seemed like a week, was a stunner. Only he could’ve scored that goal. He’s led his country with distinction and smashed almost every club football record that you can think of. And I’m delighted that he’s going to be playing in the PL again.

But there’s no use pretending - he’s not what he was. Will he still score goals? Of course he will. Is he the missing piece? No. And his presence at OT might have the opposite effect to the one their punters are all dreaming of. I’ll get back to that.

He’s already had the effect the Glazers wanted. The share price was up 8% Friday. Facebook and Instagram followers were up by a million. When they’ve worked out what number jersey he’ll wear, they’ll fly out of the door. It’s a brilliant piece of business by the owners - which is something that, so far, has escaped the attention of United fans. It’s everything that they’ve been protesting against. It’s the Glazers printing money for themselves again. I don’t have a problem with that. People don’t buy big football clubs to lose money, but there is still a belief among fans - and mainly United fans - that they should.

The way the deal was done was classic cloak and dagger. I can’t think of a transfer that’s been done so quietly since Southampton signed Kevin Keegan in the 70’s. That one took the breath away. This was the modern day equivalent. But it bothers me why it was done.

There’s no question that Ronaldo was going to Manchester City last Friday lunchtime. That’s when Fergie, Fernandes and Ronaldo’s old neighbour, Rio Ferdinand, got involved. Calls from all three helped change Ronaldo’s mind. Two hours later he was United’s. 

I know I’ve played fast and loose with the time line there - but it happened pretty much like that.

The point is - he doesn’t appear to have been on United’s radar. There’s nothing to suggest that Solskjaer and his coaching team had put a long term plan together to bring Ronaldo ‘home’. It was more a deal motivated by blind panic that Ronaldo was about to join the noisy neighbours. That’s no way to go about planning. Or building. 

What does Solskjaer do with him? How does he fit him in? Who makes way? Whose progress is stunted by Ronaldo’s return? Who takes pens? Who takes free-kicks? I know it sounds silly - but it’s often these little things that cause friction. Fernandes won’t want to give them up. Ronaldo definitely won’t step away from them.

Ronaldo is a superstar. He knows it. He’ll most likely bring with him all of the things that Fergie hated about David Beckham - and why he ultimately sold him. It could end up another circus.

I’ve said that I fancy United for the title this season - before Ronaldo was signed. He’ll scores goals. He’ll have a huge impact in some games. And I repeat - it’s great to have him back in the PL - but I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t have been better off going to The Etihad - and that United might have been better off encouraging him there. ‘Returns’ very rarely work out.