In a transfer window which has already been one of the most engrossing and fascinating in football history, the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United has again set the football world abuzz with excitement.
Ronaldo’s sensational return to the club which he left 12 years ago seemed a far-fetched fantasy only a day or so ago when it seemed he was on the way to the blue half of Manchester.
A deal with United seemingly gathered pace once Manchester City rejected the chance to sign Ronaldo which opened the door for a return to the club which helped shape him into the global superstar he has become.
Critics of this deal will suggest that United’s needs were greater elsewhere, including the need for a defensive central midfielder – while the recruitment of a 36-year-old Ronaldo also fails to close the gap enough for United to become genuine Premier League and Champions League threats.
Ronaldo finds himself returning to a club which is no longer the dominant force within English and European football it was in his first spell in Manchester, while the question marks over the leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remain.
The impact of Ronaldo’s signing though will not only be judged on his individual output but rather the effect he has on the United dressing room through his presence and constant drive for success.
The idea that Ronaldo has not come to United looking to achieve both individual and team success would be going against the very thing that has driven his career up to this point. Like any great athlete, Ronaldo’s confidence and belief has been born out of a work ethic to be the best which, even at the age of 36, sees him coming to United as the raining Italian Serie A golden boot winner after scoring 29 times for Juventus.
Owen Hargreaves, who played alongside Ronaldo when United last won the Champions League in 2008, echoed the sentiment that his impact will be felt both on and off the field.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the most naturally gifted football player I have seen outside of Messi, but his dedication to his craft is equal to his talent, I think he is going to be the hugest influence on Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to show that next generation this is what it takes,” said Hargreaves.
Ronaldo’s discipline around his work ethic can be traced back to his time at United under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson, who he still considers as the most important figure in his football career.
The ability of Ronaldo to still compete at the age of 36 was born out of these formative years at United where his footballing education developed dramatically. Along with modern day rivals Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo has rewritten the rules when it comes to age and the declining output this is meant to bring.
The ex-Real Madrid and Juve man has been able to adapt his game through the years from a flying winger to a central striker, wherein his football intelligence has allowed him to continue at an elite level.
The signing of Ronaldo is certainly not the magic cure many United fans would wish when it comes to United once again competing for the biggest prizes in English and European football. It does, however, bring with it a new level of expectation as the pressure will heighten on Solskjaer and his team to win trophies.
The issues at United, including the Glazer ownership, must not be forgotten and ignored by the glamorous signing of Ronaldo but at least for now football fans and United followers can sit back and watch yet another intriguing chapter in the career of one of the game’s greatest artists and goal scorers.