September 11, 2021. The day that Manchester United fans thought would never come: seeing the sight of their beloved son, Cristiano Ronaldo in the famous red and white jersey, playing at Old Trafford. Peter Drury set the tone for what was an eventful day in the lush green at Old Trafford, and Ronaldo didn’t disappoint, scoring twice, and reminding everyone, of his undoubted quality, and the fact that he could match many a younger player for pace, and still reign supreme amongst the league’s best finishers.
United won 4-1 on the day, which was supposed to herald the birth of a new era, but that bright day in September feels like eons ago, as United wobbled and fumbled before club legend. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was relieved of his duties as United boss back in November, following a run of very bad results, of which the last was a 4-1 demolition at Watford, who have been confirmed relegated.
Ronaldo also suffered a lean patch at the turn of the year, but his numbers are still sensational, given his age and the form of players around him. The 37-year-old has hit 24 goals in 37 matches since arriving from Juventus, but there are big question marks about his future, with United out of the reckoning for the Champions League places, with even Europa League place hanging by a thread. Incoming manager, Erik ten Hag has spoken about working with the legendary forward, but at 37, will Ronaldo fancy the tough competition in the Europa League or even the Conference League, as it would mean a step down in the level of competition that he is normally used to.
Ronaldo is still a supremely gifted footballer, but he needs a team that will match the ambition that at his age, he still displays a fierce desire to win, despite all that he has achieved in the game. The records speak for themselves; what he has achieved in his career, but knowing the kind of player Ronaldo is, he’d want to end his career on the highest possible level. Ten Hag plays a very energy-sapping style of play, which Ronaldo may not be perfectly suited for the high pressing and counter-pressing game, but Ronaldo’s finishing is unparalleled at the club, and it won’t be easy for a new striker to hit his guaranteed 25+ goals per season.
Next season promises to be very interesting for Manchester United, as United seeks to retain its place among the pantheons of the game in England, and even Europe at large. It won’t be easy, but Ronaldo is there as a symbol of the club’s storied past, and the baton for the future generation.
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