In his new column, Australian journalist Matthew Galea runs the rule over the week that was for Manchester United, whilst casting an eye on the action to come.
Mere hours after filing last week’s column, in which I admitted to feeling sick at the thought of Cristiano Ronaldo wearing City blue, a move I “fully expected” he would complete, the United legend’s return to Old Trafford had been all but confirmed.
Within 24 hours, the news was in.
Ronaldo was coming home.
As a United fan, it is hard not to view the move through the rosiest of rose tinted glasses.
Realistically, how could United not at least explore the possibility?
When it became clear he was keen on a move from Juventus, and with Manchester City the only likely destination, how could United not make a move?
That the move would transpire so quickly following United’s interest only served to add to the romanticism of the move.
There is no doubting, in my mind at least, that United wanted Ronaldo more than City. But I like to think a big part of that was City knowing that if and when United showed interest, there was only one club Ronaldo would choose.
And whilst there is no doubting that there are areas of the squad that remain vastly undermanned – more on that later – it really is hard to put a negative spin on the signing.
Ronaldo’s arrival delivers so many intangibles.
The morale lift that a living legend brings to the dressing room.
The opportunities it provides our young and rising stars to learn from one of the best – perhaps even the best – players in the history of the game.
The leadership Ronaldo brings to the dressing room.
Only the biggest cynic could fault United for bringing Ronaldo back.
Record Ronaldo: The Hype Is Real
Oh, and if the sense of hype around Ronaldo’s return was already high, his performance for Portugal on Wednesday will have sent it skyrocketing.
United’s returning number seven became the greatest ever goalscorer in men’s international football with a brace in Portugal’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over Ireland.
The 36-year-old demonstrated that no matter his age, he remains in peak physical condition with a grit and determination that has not diminished despite being one of the world’s most accomplished players.
His early missed penalty only seemed to spur him on as he found the net twice in the dying minutes to turn the game around for his country, reminding everyone that whilst Ronaldo is a different player to the one that left Old Trafford 12 years ago, he remains a force to be reckoned with.
His will alone will win United games this season.
Supply and Demand
So, we know that Ronnie can and will score goals for United.
The question is, how many chances can United create for him to score?
That’s where the big questions of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield come into play.
The truth is, Ronaldo is not going to have many opportunities if United turn up like they did against Wolves last weekend.
A win’s a win, especially away from home, but there’s no denying that United rode their luck for the vast majority of that game.
The brilliance of David De Gea denied Wolves on more than one occasion, whilst the vastly improved centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire looked absolutely class.
Truth be told, United’s new defensive duo had to be at their best, so little was the protection offered by the hapless Fred and the poor Paul Pogba who had to cover his tracks.
With just three shots on target over the 90 minutes, United’s ability to create chances from open play was sorely lacking at Wolves and it has to improve if United are to get the best out of their new signing.