Finance Section Editor
On September 11, 2021, 12 years after he left for La Liga on a record transfer fee, Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the starting 11 at Old Trafford. After an extended run with Real Madrid, which left him four Champions League trophies, and a short stint with Italian giant Juventus, the Golden Boy was home, much to the delight of Manchester United fans.
When he left, The Red Devils looked like a whole different team. The year was 2008 and they were at the top of the Premier League and had secured a Champions League trophy. They were managed by arguably the greatest football mind ever to grace the sport, Sir Alex Furgeson, players such as Ryan Giggs, Rio Fernidad, and Paul Scholes were first-team starters, Arsenal was a legitimate rival and Marcus Rashford was 11 years old. A far cry from the United squad we see today which has an ecliptic mix of young, undeveloped talent paired with experienced but aging veterans that struggle to keep up with emerging competition both domestically and internationally. Now, Man United looks to their former prodigy to spark a return to juggernaut status. The nostalgia for the glory days is allowing fans to celebrate the most they have in nearly a decade.
Ronaldo didn’t disappoint either, scoring twice in the tilt against Newcastle United. The first was a tap-in after Freddie Woodman, Newcastle’s keeper, spilled the ball to put United ahead. After an equalizer, Ronaldo proved to fans that his class as an athlete still remains as he used his speed to split the back line and slot another one home in between the goalie’s legs to restore the lead. It couldn’t have been anyone else.
A demoralized Newcastle never recovered as Bruno Fernandes scored Man United’s third via a screamer from outside the box and Jesse Lingard wrapped it up with a fourth after some attractive passing play.
The Portuguese captain’s returning to Manchester for $17.6 million caps many blockbuster moves that happened in the Prem’s offseason which is shaping this current season to be one of the most competitive ever. In addition to Ronaldo, Manchester United have also signed Raphael Varane, another former Real Madrid player, to replace Victor Lindelof as Harry Maguire’s primary partner in the back. Chelsea bolstered its side with its own ex-striker, Romelu Lukaku, who has already been a huge problem for defenders this season. Manchester City added former Aston Villa standout Jack Grealish to its star-studded team for $100 million. Though Liverpool haven’t made any historic moves this transfer window, star defender Virgil Van Dyck returns from injury to captain much of the talent that won the Champions League in 2019. And let’s not forget that Spurs (who somehow still have Harry Kane), Leicester City, and Everton will all put up their usual fights to sneak into the top four.
Manchester United have not been top of the table in almost a decade and have not won a Champions League since Ronaldo left in 2008. Whether the 36-year-old superstar can put aside his ego, which has been a problem in the past, and use his experience to instill in the young core talent a cut-throat, winning attitude to regain the club’s former dominance remains to be seen. However, if he and the team around him can figure it out, expect for the whole demeanor of the Reds to change and to see flashbacks of the organization’s former glories.
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