Cristiano Ronaldo has come home and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks you know all too well how it’s playing out. The return of United’s prodigal son happened in a flash. Rumours were rife that the Portuguese ace was joining the noisy neighbours across town, only to make a u-turn at the last gasp to complete a dream return.
Ronaldo was immediately plastered across the internet since the announcement that he was rejoining the Reds and taking back his rightful, legendary number seven shirt. The former holder of United’s fable jersey, Edinson Cavani paved the way by switching to his national team number 21 after the departure of Daniel James to Leeds United.
Fast forward twelve years and Ronaldo isn’t the same player he was when he left. Ole has opted to deploy him up top for the majority of his time on the pitch while the Portuguese has also made cameo appearances on the wing to accommodate Cavani.
Let’s start off with the obvious. Ronaldo is still the prolific goalscorer he was at both Real Madrid and more recently in Italy at Juventus.
Ronaldo was named capocannoniere in Serie A last season, even pipping the fabled Romelu Lukaku to the honour in the process. No wonder then that the majority of top UK betting sites in 2021 currently have the Portuguese as one of the favourites for the Premier League Golden Boot.
Ronaldo has consistently performed for both club and country. He most recently broke the all-time national scoring record with Portugal, and has continued to find the net in his opening matches for the Reds. The naysayers abound but there is little doubt Solskjær will continue to deploy his new talisman up top, where he continues to consistently operate with authority and impunity.
An example for youth
The United squad is packed to the rafters with young talent. Since the beginning of Solskjær’s reign the Norwegian has continually asserted his desire to follow his mentor and the principles of the club in pushing forward youth.
This extends to the signings of promising youngsters such as Facundo Pellestri, Amad Diallo and a more advanced fit in Jadon Sancho, to placing faith in the likes of home grown talent in Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
United’s young attacking players have a lot to learn from having Ronaldo around Carrington on a daily basis. In terms of attacking space, technique and decision-making Ronaldo is second to none, something United’s youngsters would benefit significantly from.
Raising the bar
It’s not just youth that will benefit from having Ronaldo around. Ever a consummate professional, the Portuguese striker doesn’t look like he is settling for second best or subpar standards. Ronaldo demands excellence and maximum effort from those around him.
Performances away to Young Boys and at home to Aston Villa and Everton have unfortunately not been up to scratch with the Portuguese visibly showing his displeasure as he exited the Old Trafford pitch before the October international break.
Solskjær will welcome a former ally in the dressing room, especially one that can channel the prevailing culture of the bygone days of Alex Ferguson’s time in charge. If Ronaldo comes on side as an ally of his former teammate, it could provide the spark that ignites a return to winning ways.
A marketable brand
You may not like it but there’s no ignoring the fact that one of the selling points for bringing back Ronaldo to United is his brand. Although United won’t make any money from the sales of his shirts, despite breaking records for shirt sales, such is the nature of these deals, the fervour surrounding Ronaldo and his move back to Old Trafford did enough to raise share prices significantly.
Ed Woodward and co. have come in for criticism over the years for not performing on the football side of things, but no one can deny their marketing acumen. Adding Ronaldo’s commercial appeal will have the number crunchers at Old Trafford frothing at the mouth.
Fergie time winners
Last but not least, it’s time for a glance at the watch! Solskjær’s United have had a bit of a penchant for turning the tide at the last minute. Reminiscent of some of Fergie’s classic sides, Ronaldo is fully fluent with running the line right down to the last second.
Two goals for Portugal in the dying embers of their match against Ireland, Ronaldo turned a 1-0 deficit into a resounding 2-1 win and ensuring his national side remain poised to qualify for next year’s world cup just ahead of his Old Trafford return.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to United’s home opener in the Champions League and cue who? Ronaldo of course. Alongside a number of tactically adept substitutions late in the game, Ronaldo was able to latch on to a Jesse Lingard setup to smash and grab a vital three points at the last gasp.
If Ronaldo can continue to bring this intensity right down to the wire it could make the difference at crucial points in United’s season as it has already proven to do so.