By Dan Coombs
It is hard to escape the inevitable expectation Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Manchester United career will come to an abrupt end shortly.
His decision to express his displeasure with everything, including manager Erik ten Hag, has given the club little option but to move on, with a clean break.
Ronaldo’s second United spell then looks like ending sadly, and many have questioned why he was re-signed in the first place.
While strategically we can look back and say it was a mistake by United and by Ronaldo, we should not necessarily regret it, instead be glad it happened. Here’s why…
Prior to signing with Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo had been on the verge of joining Manchester City. We still feel thankful he didn’t.
The thought of seeing Ronaldo in a City shirt would have been unbearable, and was even harder to stomach last year, when our only memory of him at United was the glory days under Fergie.
There is a good chance that if Ronaldo signed for City last season, he would have led them to win the Champions League. Preventing this happening is reason enough to view the move more favourably.
United may well have fallen apart last season anyway without Ronaldo, and what he did do, was make the terrible 2021/22 campaign slightly less painful than it could have been.
Manchester United fans never believed Ronaldo would return to the club. To see him in action again felt momentous. For those able to see him in person, an unforgettable experience.
Many kids growing up would have heard from their United-supporting dads about the glory days of Ronaldo. His return helped bring some of those tales for life for a new generation, even if it was only brief.
His comeback has provided some special moments. Ronaldo’s comeback match, a two-goal brace against Newcastle, was one which fans at Old Trafford will never forget.
There were last minute winning goals at Old Trafford against Villarreal and Atalanta too. His decisive brace at home to Arsenal, and his stirring hat-trick at home to Tottenham.
His volley away at Tottenham and brace away at Atalanta also rank highly. While there were some lows, a goal drought at the start of the season, and struggles under Erik ten Hag, the highs were special – and they were moments United fans had not expected to experience again.
Manchester United came to the realisation last season that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not the man to lead the club forward.
Ronaldo’s return had heightened expectation and pressure – but that’s how it should be at Manchester United. Solskjaer’s team cracked.
The Norwegian had got comfortable, leaning on his favoured players excessively, and there was a clear backwards step after the Europa League final defeat. The near misses had begun to grind, and the team imploded.
Sooner or later Solskjaer had to go, to be replaced by a genuine top quality coach. Manchester United finally have one, in Erik ten Hag.
Solskjaer’s early sacking last season gave United time to prepare for Ten Hag and convince him. It’s possible that had Ronaldo not signed, United would still be stumbling on under Ole, or his sacking would have come too late, and the club would have missed the boat on Ten Hag.
By Dan Coombs