ARTICLES Opinion

What Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United will look like

What a finale to a transfer window that will never be beaten. Cristiano Ronaldo making his long-awaited return to Old Trafford.

A sigh of relief that he won’t be seen wearing the sky blue of Manchester City, but with his return now official, what will it exactly look like?

Then vs now

When Ronaldo first arrived at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003, he was a flashy teenage winger from Portugal, and at first many thought that his tricks were silly and not needed. However, those thoughts soon changed when people realised how talented he was and saw the numbers he was capable of producing.

At this point in his career, he operated from the left-hand side of the pitch, known for ‘running down the wing’ tearing apart defences. Whilst he scored goals to begin with, it wasn’t until the latter part of his spell at United that he really set himself as one of the best in the world.

In the glorious 2007-08 season that culminated in his first, and United’s third Champions League victory, he netted an incredible tally of 42 goals. This led to his first ballon d’or and eventual interest from Real Madrid, for whom he departed in 2009.

Since then, the type of player Ronaldo has developed into is very different to what he was at United. Whilst at Real he first continued to play as a left-winger, when he entered into his 30’s he moved into a more central role that he continues to operate in today.

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Focussed on purely scoring, he improved his in the box movement and positions, so he was always on the end of chances created. And he was so good at it that in March of this year he became to greatest goal scorer of all time with 770 three clear of Pele’s 767.

Moving into a central role has enabled him to prolong his career, and as a result, even at 36 years of age, he hasn’t declined and United are still getting one of the worlds best. As well as the fairytale ending to go with it.

How will United line-up, and who misses out?

When the emotion of his return to the Theatre of Dreams dies down, if it ever does, it’ll be time to look at just exactly where Ronaldo fits into the current United setup.

The red devils’ priority this summer wasn’t a central striker, in fact with the forward players at their disposal, it was the least priority.

Having finally captured of Jadon Sancho as well as a shrewd move for Raphael Varane, it was the signing of a midfielder that was looking most likely to be the final edition.

But with Ronaldo now on the verge of returning, it’s almost certain that when fit, he will start in the number 9 role, leaving a huge question mark over the future of Edinson Cavani.

While reports suggest that the 34-year-old is still in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans, it’d be very likely he’d be playing second fiddle to the United legend, and there’s question marks around whether he’d be happy about that.

What this means for United’s future

Only a few days ago fans were being told how United had turned their attention to next summer and the pursuit of Erling Haaland. How the sudden availability of a club legend can certainly change things.

Ronaldo signing a two-year deal probably all but confirms that United will not be in the race for Haaland next summer. In fact, Man City’s failure to secure a striker probably puts them in pole position.

One player it will benefit though is Mason Greenwood, the latest teenage sensation to shine at Old Trafford has a bright future ahead of him, and what perfect guidance he will now receive from the greatest of all time, a man who has walked that exact same path.

When Ronaldo’s deal expires Greenwood will be 21 and having learnt from the best, he will be able to take that baton and make it his own.

Over the past 12 months, what football means to fans has slowly started to be taken away by the rich and powerful businessmen and their intent to destroy the game.

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Whilst that is still very much a problem and will continue to be, this is another thing to remind us that romance and loyalty do still exist in football, and that the power of fans is above anything else.

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