Cristiano Ronaldo’s Return Doesn’t Fit Manchester United's Vision

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Matthew Ashton / Contributor

After a tumultuous few days in the lead up to Cristiano Ronaldo rejoining the Old Trafford side speculation around Europe was that Ronaldo would actually join United’s direct rivals Manchester City. That wasn’t the final outcome though and the Red Devils ultimately were able to bring back their man for two more seasons.

Is Ronaldo the right fit for United at this given time though?

Since the Portuguese international’s departure over a decade ago there have been some issues with consistency in Manchester, especially following Sir Alex Ferguson’s leave in 2013. 

Since that time, United has finished outside the top four in the Premier League on four occasions and haven’t hoisted the top-flight trophy during that span.

However, after a second-place finish last season and a trip to the Europa League final, United finally appears to be in a position where the club isn’t just seeking to be competitive. The club has plenty of reason for excitement not just domestically but for Europe as well after receiving a favorable Champions League draw.

Bringing back a player of Ronaldo’s caliber obviously adds a layer of creativity and experience to a squad that is largely young and developing its big-match experience. The same could be said about the team’s addition of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid this summer. 

However, the rest of United’s squad, with the exceptions of goalkeeper David De Gea and striker Edinson Cavani, are young. In fact, the Red Devils boast a team that currently has 15 players aged 25 or younger, making it one of the youngest in the Premier League.

Where does Ronaldo fit into that? The Portuguese international is the second-oldest at the club, only trailing goalkeeper Lee Grant.

To many, age is just a number and in Ronaldo’s case that may be true in a lot of ways. He finished last season as Juventus’ leading scorer and won the Serie A Golden Boot award for his troubles.

That being said though, there’s a new age at United with a wide variety of attacking talent led by the marquee summer signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. Sancho, like many of United’s top attacking weapons, are all largely in that 25 and under group, with the exception being Bruno Fernandes (26) and Paul Pogba (27).

Ronaldo is a focal point no matter which team he has played on throughout his career. During his first stint at United, a young Ronaldo dazzled English football with his flair and tremendous golazos. 

The same was true during his time in La Liga.

When Ronaldo completed his move to Real Madrid in 2009 the Portuguese superstar was undoubtedly on pace to fulfill his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever grace the pitch, but what the forward was able to accomplish during that time was almost unrivaled.

Four Ballon d’Or wins. Four UEFA Champions League titles. Three Club World Cup victories. Two La Liga trophies.

The accolades that Ronaldo was able to rack up during his time in Spain were simply incredible, but it became evident towards the end of his time at the Santiago Bernabeu that the all-time great wasn’t enjoying himself as much with Madrid.

Ronaldo had won nearly everything possible during his time at Real and that’s what pushed him towards leaving. Just three seasons later after joining Juventus, the 36-year-old has forced yet another move after his growing displeasure in Italy.

Despite winning two Serie A trophies his first two seasons at Juventus, there wasn’t much to show for Ronaldo’s time in Turin. The goals came flooding in as was expected upon signing, but Juve were knocked out of Champions League well before many anticipated and now that’s led Ronaldo towards a second act at Manchester United.

Ronaldo’s reunion at United doesn’t present the same opportunity that his first go around did in the 2000s though.

At the time, Ronaldo was a young player breaking into one of the best leagues in the world and establishing himself as one of the world’s best.

Now, that could be said about players like Greenwood, Rashford and Sancho, all of whom have massive expectations for their respective futures at the club and with the England national team.

Ronaldo’s role will need to be significantly different in 2021 and beyond than his previous stint at United or else these players could certainly see a dip in their trajectory.

With the amount of serious attacking talent United possesses it’s not possible for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to play every one of his players in critical matches.

Ronaldo’s big-game value is certainly worth the risk of bringing to United, but in order for him to be best utilized the Red Devils must first reach the pinnacle of the league and Europe, something the club hasn’t been able to achieve in quite some time.

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