“It is Ronaldo. Manchester United. The Theatre is living its dream. Madeira, Manchester, Madrid, Turin & Manchester again. Reeved in Red. Restored to this great gallery of the game. A walking work of art. Vintage, beyond valuation, beyond forgery or imitation, eighteen years since that trembling teenager of touch and tease, first tiptoed on to the historic stage, now in his immaculate maturity, now CR7 reunited.”
United fans, not in 15 years, would not have imagined those words would be uttered at Old Trafford again. Last season we got a just that – Peter Drury calling Ronaldo a walking work of art, as he walked onto the pitch for the first time at Old Trafford in our kit, ready to deliver what he always does. And deliver he did.
Go here for chills:
In the last season, Ronaldo scored 24 goals for United across the Premier League and Champions League. He was the 3rd top scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals. No other United player featured in the top 20 for goals scored in the PL. Bruno was a distant 21st with 10 goals. This tells you everything you need to know about how bad of a season we really had. And among all the doom and gloom, the walking work of art kept delivering.
Now as we venture away from the facts of last season and try and unpack what happened, there are two ways you can look at it. First, and the obvious one, is that Ronaldo came and salvaged an utterly poor season for United by delivering precious goals when no one else were scoring any. He saved us from further embarrassment. The second point of view is that by returning to United, Ronaldo threw into jeopardy Ole’s rebuilding of the team, and forced him to fit CR7 in a system that was designed to play free flowing, quick counter-attacking football. CR7 did score alright but threw into disarray the rest of the dressing room, triggering a series of events leading to the sacking of Ole, the onset of a very tough interim period for Ralf and our current challenges in the transfer window.
And now, reports have been coming in thick and fast over the last several weeks that Ronaldo is trying to force an exit out of the club so that he can play Champions League football. This is a complex situation for several reasons. Few of them listed below –
- Ronaldo is at a salary that touches the moon. This means that the number of clubs that can afford him are truly next to non-existent. At 37-38, he will have to take significant pay cut for clubs to come in for him
- This is probably going to his last season in a topflight team
- Wherever he goes, the dressing room must accept him and his demanding style
- More importantly, the manager would have to fit CR7 into a system that is not disruptive
From United’s perspective, we are utterly short of 20-goal-a-season strikers and letting Ronaldo go will force Erik ten Hag to play either Martial or one of our winger/forwards in the #9 position. Not an ideal situation considering none of our forwards can be consistently called upon to deliver 20+ goals season after season. We did have that one season where both Rashford and Martial clicked, both clocking 20+ goals. Oh, we thought we were winning the league!
So clearly Ronaldo leaving can spell only bad news for us. Right?
There is an alternate view. One that most people are probably thinking – is it a blessing in disguise? Like I mentioned above, Ronaldo’s return has led to a situation that may not be ideal. He is our biggest expense on the wage bill. His leaving will free up precious funds in wages that will give Erik ten Hag a lot of freedom for his rebuild, and with younger, upcoming players.
Also, it is not clear if United really wanted Ronaldo. All signs indicate hierarchy went for him as a knee-jerk reaction to near-confirmed reports that he was signing for a smaller team that also happened to be in the vicinity of Old Trafford. It would be embarrassing for a legend of one of the biggest clubs in the world to sign for a small team in the same city. So, we broke the bank, and set the stage for VIVA RONALDO to be chanted at Old Trafford again, loud enough to be heard at the other end of town. But did Ole really want him in the squad? Will Ten Hag want him?
Then there are the goals. Only Ronaldo can be criticized for scoring goals. But there is a school of thought that believe that even though he was scoring for us, he stymied the growth and abilities of our other forwards, in effect stopping their goals from happening. Now there’s no way to prove it. Unless Doctor Strange is a United fan, we will never know. I only want to point out this perspective since I have seen and read it among our fanbase.
From Ronaldo’s perspective, he has done everything right and very professionally. Gives his 100% every time he’s on the pitch and demands the same from the other team members who have been coasting. And at 37 years old, I understand that he’d want to play topflight football before he hangs his boots. I also understand if he wants to protect his legacy in the Champions league by making sure he has scored more goals than Messi (I believe he is leading by 15) before they both retire (sad day for football.) But the question is, will he damage his legacy at United because of this push?
So is it really a boon that he’s seeking to leave? The logical and emotional side of me think it is. We wanted that romantic return to Old Trafford and the dance of the SIU in front of Stretford End, and we did get it. Out of nowhere. God knows how many days were spent humming Viva Ronaldo in my head. But all good things must come to an end. And I think we’re at that point with CR7. He came and he conquered. Now it is time to welcome a new era under Ten Hag. An era that we all hope will end our misery and leave us happy after every game. If he wants to leave, let him. At the same time, we can be gracious enough to acknowledge his contributions and say thank you for making it happen one last time.