It must count as one of the most dramatic days in Manchester United’s history – and all without a single ball being kicked, said Jim White in The Daily Telegraph.
Last Thursday, United fans took to social media to mourn the fact that their former hero, the Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, was “in talks” with bitter rival Manchester City about a transfer from Juventus, the team he has played for in the past three seasons. A move to the Etihad seemed assured. Man Utd fans fumed over Ronaldo’s “treachery”, cursed his super-sized ego, and hopefully predicted that, at 36 years old, he’d “prove a liability” for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Just 24 hours later, they were eating their words, said Paul Hirst and Pol Ballús in The Times. While City vacillated, asking for more time to work out how to structure the deal, United swooped, and quickly re-signed the forward on a two-year deal thought to be worth more than £400,000 a week.
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Ronaldo’s “second coming” will probably begin with United’s home game against Newcastle United on Saturday 11 September, said Daniel Taylor on The Athletic. “Just imagine the reception he will get when he pulls on that red shirt. Imagine the noise when the ball arrives at his feet.”
True, he is not the same player as the 18-year-old who made his debut at Old Trafford in 2003 with “braces on his teeth” and “magic in his feet”. No longer “the blur of improvisational brilliance” he once was, there’ll be fewer of those “slaloming runs past opposition defenders”. Yet he remains a“supreme athlete”, and is still prolific in front of goal (at Juventus, he netted 101 times in 134 appearances). “You’d still back him to turn Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team from nearly-men into authentic title challengers.”
That almost certainly won’t happen, said Jonathan Wilson in The Guardian. In bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, United have let sentiment cloud their judgement. For all the goals he scored at Juventus, he made them a worse team. One problem was his “relative immobility” – last season, he was one of Europe’s worst-performing strikers when it came to contributing to the press. Another was that the money Juventus spent on him forced them to weaken the rest of their squad.
Expect the same pattern at United, who don’t need a goal-scorer – goals haven’t been their problem – but a “central midfielder to link the two halves of the side”. This “whimsical signing” is of a piece with “the short-term crowd-pleasing” that has characterised the eight years since Alex Ferguson departed.
On the contrary, Ronaldo’s return should be celebrated, said Henry Winter in The Times. He’s one of the top five footballers of all time; his arrival adds to the excitement of the season. All of English football will hugely benefit from his being here.
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