Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro who first made his debut with Manchester United in 2003 in a 4-0 home win over Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers.
18 years and 1 month later, Cristiano Ronaldo returned for his second Old Trafford debut against Newcastle United, scoring 2 goals in his first game of the season.
In the time between those two debuts, the Portuguese forward has won 3 Premier League’s, 5 Champions League’s, 2 Scudetto’s, 1 European Championship and a staggering 5 Ballon d’Or’s.
Below we cover what CR7’s return to Old Trafford means to Manchester United fans and speculate as to what impact his arrival could have on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
(Ronaldo discussing his return to Old Trafford with Sky Sports.)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Cultural Significance in Manchester
When news first broke that Cristiano Ronaldo was leaving Juventus and considering joining Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, there was a metaphorical sigh of resignation from the wider footballing public.
The damage that club’s such as Chelsea and Manchester City have done to football is the subject of another article entirely. Suffice to say though, that seeing Ronaldo join a team who finished 16th with a paltry 9 wins in his first season in English football would have been disappointing, especially for Untied fans.
(The 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo makes his Old Trafford debut as a substitute for Nicky Butt.)
During his first spell with the Red Devils, Cristiano Ronaldo became a cultural icon, not just in Manchester but on a global scale. It was in Stretford that the Portuguese player developed his reputation as a footballing God, dragging Manchester United to domestic and European success in the process.
Despite leaving for Real Madrid in 2009 Ronaldo has remained a pivotal figure in United’s modern history. His return 12 years later is perhaps more culturally significant because of the ennui that has been surrounding the club since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
In the post-Ferguson era, United have lurched from manager to manager, trying and repeatedly failing to rediscover the glories of a bygone era. CR7’s return not only promises much in terms of future performances, but it also serves as a reminder to beleaguered United fans that they are a footballing powerhouse.
If Ronaldo’s arrival lifts Manchester United to their first Premier League title since the departure of Ferguson the transfer could go down in history as the club’s most important ever.
What Impact Could CR7 Have at Old Trafford?
The question on everyone’s lips right now is ‘will Ronaldo fire Manchester United to the title?’ 5 years ago that question would have been an open and shut case with the resounding answer of ‘yes’.
Now however, there are more question marks surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo as at the age of 36, his best days are behind him.
The football experts over at betting giants 888 are still tipping Manchester City for the title in their football prediction feature, but are they right? Or will Ronaldo’s return shift the balance of power in Manchester and the Premier League? To find out, let’s take a look at some of the most common assumptions about CR7 and analyse whether they’re right…
Ronaldo’s Legs Have Gone
During Ronaldo’s medical with Italian giants Juventus in 2018, it was revealed that the Portuguese great had all the physical capabilities of a 20-year-old. In his 2 years in Turin that assertion as widely criticised as he cut a largely immobile figure in Juve’s frontline.
Gone were the dazzling runs from deep through a crowded group of opposition players as were the lung-busting sprints into the box to finish of a rapid counter attack. The former Real Madrid player was even criticised for being ‘lazy’ by Juve fans and former players.
Whilst it’s true to say that Ronaldo has lost some of the explosiveness that made him so dangerous, it’s unfair to say that his legs have gone. His game has changed, now he plays as an out and out striker and a pretty good one at that too.
Last season he finished the Serie A campaign as the league’s top scorer with 29 goals, 5 more than runner-up Romelu Lukaku. Critics can say that Ronaldo’s legs have gone but as a striker, he is still far more lethal and productive than a player that Chelsea have just shelled out £97.5 million for.
(Not a bad goal haul from a player who’s ‘legs have gone’.)
Ronaldo Isn’t a Team Player
It has been said since his arrival in the Premier League 18 years ago and to be fair, there is a large element of truth to this criticism. Ronaldo has always appeared to prioritise self over team, whether that be in lambasting teammates for not passing to him or taking the glory for himself.
This criticism was ramped up in particular during his time in Italy, where he was criticised for being ‘selfish’ and ‘disrespectful’ by fans. Guardian writer and author of Inverting the Pyramid, Jonathan Wilson has even gone as far to say that the Portuguese ‘held back’ Juventus and suggested that he will do the same at United.
With this criticism in mind, it is possible to envisage a world in which Ronaldo’s involvement at Old Trafford does cause serious issues to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical style. Will the Norwegian be able to continue with his tactic of obstinate counter attacking without a willing runner at the focal point of his front three? Only time will tell.