Solskjaer facing test to keep everyone happy after Ronaldo return
No excuses Ole! Man United’s rebuild has not been immediate but Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence brings instant glamour and will attract the next set of targets… keeping everyone happy however is going to be the real test of Solskjaer’s managerial skills
- It has been a tortuous 12 years since for United since Carlos Tevez joined City
- But now squad has blend of homegrown talent, signings and established stars
- United fans believe their club can now go on and reclaim their rightful place
- There are sceptics who doubt Cristiano Ronaldo can have the same impact
Sir Alex Ferguson’s anger at those notorious ‘Welcome to Manchester’ Carlos Tevez posters in 2009 came from fear as much as loathing.
That summer when City flexed their financial muscles and made Tevez an offer he couldn’t refuse, United also lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.
Fergie could sense the football world was turning and he was right. Now with the re-signing of Ronaldo, there is a sense it’s turning back.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing a real test of his managerial skills this season at Man United
Sir Alex Ferguson’s anger at those notorious ‘Welcome to Manchester’ Carlos Tevez posters in 2009 came from fear as much as loathing
It has been a tortuous 12 years since for the red side since Tevez turned blue. Every time United wanted something, City seemed to get it. It started with Samir Nasri and ended with Pep Guardiola.
The only time United were so desperate to eclipse their noisy neighbours they had to pay £600,000 a week to Alexis Sanchez which proved a self-inflicted wound. Ed Woodward was ultimately so appalled at the deal he signed off, he instigated a total culture change at Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The revival hasn’t been immediate and United are still looking for their first trophy since 2017. But they are building that blend of homegrown talent (Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood), peak signings (Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes) and established winners (Raphael Varane, Cristiano Ronaldo).
With City missing out on both Ronaldo and Harry Kane and the club owners wanting to be accepted by the establishment rather than ostentatiously throwing their oil money about, there has been an outpouring from United fans who believe their club can now go on and reclaim their rightful place.
Every time United wanted something -except Alexis Sanchez – Man City seemed to get it
But now United fans believe their club can now go on and reclaim their rightful place
‘The idea of Cristiano going to City was torture for United fans,’ acknowledged Gary Neville. ‘This will give United an incredible 12 months. Old Trafford will be absolutely rocking, Cristiano will score goals and give them brilliant moments. The Glazers do what they normally do when put under pressure. Make two or three signings and basically it shuts people up.’
Ronaldo’s presence brings instant glamour and will attract the next set of targets. Why wouldn’t Erling Haaland, for example, not want to play alongside a five-time Ballon d’or winner and one of the greatest footballers who has ever graced the game.
United knew privately they’d got their man on Thursday even when the rest of the world were still chasing the City ambulance. Ronaldo will have a medical in Lisbon during the international break and return ‘home’ to Carrington after World Cup qualifying duty for Portugal.
United say they beat off offers from multiple clubs, not just City, to get their man. Their belief is the 36-year-old feels he has unfinished business at Old Trafford.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence brings instant glamour and will attract the next set of targets
When he left for Madrid as the world’s most expensive player, he had won three consecutive Premier League titles but also carried memory of his final game, a Champions League final defeat against Barcelona.
There are sceptics who doubt Ronaldo can have the same impact second time around. United don’t think it will be an anti-climax. They point to his figures at Juventus, 101 goals in 134 games.
‘We didn’t start the summer planning to sign Cristiano because we didn’t expect him to leave Juve. Once it became clear he was available, we moved to seize the opportunity,’ confirmed a senior figure at the club.
Can the Ronaldo effect swing the balance of the title race? Neville yesterday chose not to change his prediction that they would finish third. Mail on Sunday columnist Danny Murphy, who played against him several times, is similarly unconvinced about their potential to be champions.
‘It’s genuinely exciting for everyone to have Cristiano back but there is an argument that United needed to strengthen in midfield rather than centre-forward,’ he says.
The Red Devils boss’ belief is the 36-year-old feels he has unfinished business at Old Trafford
‘This is also a huge test for Ole in how to keep his squad happy. If Ronaldo plays up top, what does that say to Mason Greenwood? He can hardly shift to the right and keep Jadon Sancho out the team because Sancho cost £73million. In addition, expectations will be higher than ever.’
Solskjaer is also mindful his job is to ensure Ronaldo’s arrival doesn’t lead to Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial and others feeling marginalised. But as a manager, he sees the benefits in having a superstar challenge the rest of the group.
‘When we come back after internationals there will be games for everyone,’ he argues. ‘Every player at Man United has the challenge of being the best version of themselves. The fitter you are the more you can do.’
Murphy knows from personal experience that Ronaldo will add intensity. ‘For all his incredible skill, my abiding memory of playing against him was Ronaldo lunging at me with a bad tackle that could have got me injured and him a red card,’ he recalls.
Solskjaer is also mindful his job is to ensure Ronaldo’s arrival doesn’t lead to Anthony Martial feeling marginalised
‘I managed to dodge the worst of it and to prevent getting him into trouble, I offered him a handshake to say ‘It’s OK, no harm done’. He ignored my hand and kept moaning because they were losing. It infuriated me at the time but looking back I can see it’s because he cared so much.’
United were diminished in 2009. Ferguson had spent a year insisting Ronaldo wouldn’t go anywhere, stating ‘I wouldn’t sell that lot (Real Madrid) a virus’, but ultimately he was powerless.
Now, the rest of the world is looking at United with respect again. Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti summed it up: ‘It’s a good thing for Man United. The fans love him.’
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