Over the past seven days, the soccer world has lit up with reports that Cristiano Ronaldo will be on the move before the transfer deadline. It quickly emerged that Manchester City was the most likely destination for the legendary Portuguese star, but Manchester United made their move to assure a stunning return to Old Trafford for the former Real Madrid man. But – can Cristiano Ronaldo make Manchester United title contenders?
A lot has changed at the Theatre of Dreams in the twelve years that Ronaldo has been away, but there is a sense that the return of the global superstar to United has ensured that they are now back among the leading contenders to win a first Premier League title since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The ‘New’ Ronaldo United Have Signed
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first stay at Old Trafford was nothing short of legendary, as he more than played his part in one of the most successful periods in the history of the club. In six seasons with the club, he scored 118 goals in 292 games, as United went on to win three Premier League titles, the Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup. However, the Portugal captain returns to United as a different player from the one that left in 2009.
Long gone are the days of Ronaldo breezing past opponents with his quick feet, as he is now a renowned number nine that is capable of scoring a variety of goals. It is a testament to Ronaldo’s ability that even those that question whether he is ‘past it’ still understand that the famous number 7 at 36 is still better than the majority of number nines in their prime.
Ronaldo’s time in Turin with Juventus may be labeled a disappointment, but his performances were anything but that. He finished as the top scorer in Serie A in each of the last two seasons, finishing above the new $100 million man at Chelsea Romelu Lukaku on both occasions.
Still, critics would claim that the Premier League isn’t Serie A, and the Portuguese could struggle with the pace of the game. However, his ability to score 101 goals in 134 shouldn’t be underestimated in a league that is renowned for being one of the strongest in Europe.
The label of being too old to perform in the Premier League is something that has was thrown at Edinson Cavani last summer, but his performances have soon put silence over the ability of the great players that are over the age of 30 being unable to perform in England’s top-flight.
What Will Ronaldo Bring?
Goals. The signing of Ronaldo covers one of United’s weakest points of their squad, as a number nine was something that all fans understood that the club needed. Albeit, United were possibly in the market for a younger striker, when the opportunity presents itself to purchase arguably the greatest player to have ever stepped foot on the grass, it is hard to turn down.
United’s attacking talent was already captivating even without Ronaldo, with the addition of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund offering further output. Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford will continue to improve, as they look to improve on their tallies from the previous season. Cavani will once again offer something different in the number nine, while another season of 20+ goals from Bruno Fernandes is also a safe bet.
Aside from his performances on the pitch, Ronaldo will offer something off the pitch that will appease both the coaching staff and the hierarchy at the club. The announcement of his signing already saw United’s share price rise by 9.8% on the New York Stock Exchange, and further financial benefits will be felt via shirt sales and endorsements.
However, it is potentially the impact that he will have on the younger players that will be most telling. Players such as Greenwood, Rashford, Amad Diallo, and Anthony Elanga will gain so much from just training with Ronaldo. They will learn what it takes to stay at the top of the game for so long, and his advice could take their game to the next level. That is the biggest benefit to United in the long term.
Can Cristiano Ronaldo Make Manchester United Title Contenders?
Signing one of the world’s greatest players will immediately mean more pressure on the shoulders of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United finished as runners-up last season, and the problems positions of central defense and right-wing had both been addressed before the Ronaldo deal was announced.
The signing of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid remains one of the signings of the summer, as Harry Maguire now has a partner in the heart of the United defense that looks capable of mounting a title challenge.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 31, 2021
However, Ronaldo’s signing means that the 12-point difference between United and City should at least be cut this term. The Red Devils were held to draws on eleven occasions last season, more than any other side in the top-four. The Portuguese captain will likely be the difference-maker in those tight fixtures for the season ahead, which means it’s unwise to completely rule United out of the title challenge.
But, certain areas on the pitch still look a little light, and it’s unlikely that Ronaldo’s arrival will do enough to cover them. The defensive midfield position is the glaring weakness, as United don’t have a player of the caliber of N’golo Kante, Fernandinho, or Fabinho, which would enhance their title credentials. However, a trophy is a must for Solskjaer this season; otherwise, his position at the club will be up in the air come the end of the season.