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By Ivan Lim
European Champions Chelsea may have scored at the last gasp when they secured the signature of Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez, but Manchester United have won the transfer season battle for the 2021/2022 season.
United unveiled former Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane just before they opened accounts with a 5-1 drubbing of Leeds United at Old Trafford. The World Cup winner will play in central defence, probably relegating captain Harry Maguire’s partner Victor Lindelof to the bench for most of the season, which would be a good thing. Lindelof isn’t many United fans’ favourite player, and the central defensive pairing of him and Maguire is not the favourite of many United fans either, so Varane’s arrival should strengthen United defensively.
Jadon Sancho was confirmed as a Red Devil in July. After the ridiculous hype surrounding United’s attempts to sign him from Borussia Dortmund came to nothing last season, the English striker eventually returned to England as a Manchester United player for just £73 million (S$135m), way below the €120m (S190m) asking price of last season. Sancho will probably enjoy many outings as a goal-getter, and at just 21 years old, he should have a long and memorable career at Manchester United.
However, it is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo that will be the big difference to United this season.
We’re all well aware, of course, that there was massive talk of CR7 making his way to the financial half of Manchester, but Manchester City fund manager Pep Guardiola would have found it impossible to get the kind of returns from Ronaldo that his return to Old Trafford would provide for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
That is because Ronaldo means so much more to United thanks to his relationship with the club and its faithful.
It is in a Manchester United jersey that Ronaldo’s second coming to the English Premier League will be most felt, and already, United fans are looking at him like a messiah. And that is what he could end up becoming.
Whereas the Portuguese forward would be just another player – granted, a very good one – if he played at any other club in England, he would be a homecoming god in the Theatre of Dreams.
Ronaldo can do no wrong and with his calibre and experience, he’ll need very little time to readjust to the Premier League. He would have everything going for him while at it: he’d be forgiven on a bad day, and celebrated on any other day.
And just wait and watch what happens when he makes his first appearance in his second stint as a United player. The intense anticipation would guarantee a thunderous reception, and Ronaldo would thrive in such an atmosphere. More than that, he would want to reward the fans who have continued to worship him even during his absence, and the collective will of billions of United fans behind him would augur well for what would almost certainly be the final stretch of an illustrious footballing career.
How much playing time would Ronaldo eventually get during this contract, which should last two years with an option for another year? Well, United boss Solskjaer is under no illusion that the living Manchester United legend has returned to warm the United bench – this, despite a formidable roster of strikers which boasts Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. In fact, considering Ronaldo’s status at the club, there would probably be more pressure on the manager than on the player, and the Norwegian will have to deploy his new signing judiciously.
What number would Ronaldo wear? Who cares? He could come on wearing the number 666 and he’d still be loved as a god. Ideally, though, United fans would love for him to wear the beloved No 7 shirt currently assigned to fellow senior Cavani. United have applied for special dispensation to allow Ronaldo the shirt, failing which he’ll get No 21. But he’ll retire in the No 7 shirt, for sure.
That, however, may be some time yet. The legend may be getting on in years but he is still showing up sharp, as evidenced by his two-goal haul for Portugal in their 2-1 win over Ireland on Thursday morning (SGT) – the brace saw Ronaldo net his 111th goal to break the men's international scoring record. The previous record belonged to Iran’s Ali Daei, with 109 goals.
And while Ronaldo continues to delight the fans, he will also be an inspiration to the younger forwards in United’s strike force. Teenage star Greenwood and the younger United players will gain a world of experience playing alongside the Portuguese great. There is a swagger in his manner and steel in his game that will galvanise the rest of the team that even a screaming Bruno Fernandes will not.
Manchester United’s opponents and supporters, especially those of Liverpool, will dread this, but Ronaldo will make United cocky again. And that would mean winning the Premier League title – something that United has not done since 2013. Third in 2019/20, second last season and CR7 this season could complete their climb up the totem pole.
Speaking of Liverpool, the Reds have been awfully quiet on the transfer front during this window. Ibrahima Konate moved to Anfield from RB Leipzig in May, but since then, United’s great rivals have announced only the renewal of contracts of current players. Perhaps Jurgen Klopp and company believe that the current squad is strong enough to challenge for the title.
One thing’s for certain, the return to fitness of their injury-ravaged squad of last season could mean the current squad is on a par with the one that won them the title in the 2019/20 season. I’m also quite certain Liverpool will not suffer the kind of carnage their squad went through last season.
Let’s hope their deafening silence during the transfer window will not result in United crowing loudly at the end of this season.
This article, "Manchester United win the transfer window, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to make Red Devils cocky again", originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.