Portuguese man-of-war, Cristiano Ronaldo – now a crusader 12 years older and much less nimble in dexterity and visibly lacking in pace – is re-embarking on his latest mission, in his over-eagerness steamrolling over the lesser mortals at Old Trafford in his re-entry into the club. Emphatically making clear his lofty ambitions for Manchester United upon his heralded apostolic return, the Portuguese superstar has in customary Ronaldo-esque fashion trumpeted to team-mates he intends to win the title this season, no less.
Oh, the fire and zeal were definitely there, matched only by the denial and discernibly-desperate defiance stemming from the lesser – many even unhesitatingly say failed – accomplishments of the preceding season in his execution of the Italian job for which he had been handsomely commissioned to fulfill as his reputation had far preceded him. In fact, if this were an episode from another Mario Puzo-type, Hollywood mega blockbuster unraveling the sinister ‘cloak-and-dagger’ exploits of the Sicilian underworld operating in the dingy underbelly of the Manhattan, mob-run ‘Little Italy’, the Portuguese’s fiascos in the Seria A and European leagues last season would have most certainly seen his lights snuffed out by a hail of bullets from the machine guns in the hands of the Mafia consigliere, dressed immaculately in their Zegna suits to add the perfect finishing touch, of course.
However, this not being a gangster movie but a real slice-of-life from the football fields of Europe instead, Ronaldo, now 36, somehow sealed his heavily-sensationalized last minute switch from Manchester City to the Red Devils this summer in a £19.8-million move, reportedly very eager to make his exit from Juventus after having failed miserably in his grand ambitions to achieve Champions League glory for the Italian juggernauts.
And now, 12 years on after his departure for the hallowed grounds of the Spanish football conquistadors, Real Madrid, from the fading allure of the grazing grounds of the Manchester club, the Portuguese striker has finally made a hasty retreat from the Old Lady to Old Trafford, with both club and player in the Theater of Dreams hoping to comfort and regale themselves with tales of former glory as they plot to resurrect the ailing fortunes of the once-mighty club, while furtively fanning the embers of the fire that once burned bright and unstoppable in the Portuguese as an inferno that razed the European continent.
Ronaldo has vowed, unsurprisingly, that ‘history will be written once more’, having won the Premier League, Champions League and Ballon d’Or during his first stint at the club – although that was a feat he achieved twelve years ago. Let’s hope for both his sake and the club’s that it won’t be the ominous handwriting on the wall that will be scrawled ignominiously instead.
Reports from The Sun also state that he has even boldly laid down a marker to his new team-mates, presumptuously telling compatriot Bruno Fernandes to convey his message to the dressing room that he expects to win the Premier League this season. Pompous words indeed and most loftily proclaimed by one who clearly bungled in his endeavors to clinch the top Serie A honors with Juventus the last season, leaving them a dismal fourth in the final standings, not to mention the debacles of his last three charges in the Champions League that disastrously fizzled out.
However, eager to dissociate themselves from their long ordeal of continued failure to attain silverware, the United faithful are understandably in some form of denial and opt to believe instead that their resurrection is now at hand.
“The players and coaching staff now believe they have the best squad in the league and can win the Premier League this season,” a United source told the media outlet.
“Ronaldo has also spoken to Bruno Fernandes and told him to tell the other players that they need to win it this year.
“They need to work hard and start to believe in themselves. The players have not stopped talking about Ronaldo since he signed and they can’t wait to train and play alongside him.”
United have not been anywhere near to winning the title in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and finished in second place 12 points adrift of runaway champions Manchester City last campaign.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been vitally boosted by fresh reinforcements from highly-commendable transfer window transactions this summer, with the Red Devils landing Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo for a combined total of £135.3m.
In all fairness and truth be told, the Manchester club has fair chances among the top four of pulling off a Premier League victory this season with their new squad reinforcements. However, to be politically correct, Ronaldo is the last person who should be taking the liberty in making inflammatory declarations, especially in the context of re-writing history in view of his oft-mentioned failures at Juventus the last few seasons.
Despite his advancing years, Ronaldo is expected to set ablaze the English top flight after having received the consolation prize of being crowned Italy’s top scorer last season. He has also pushed his way through to reclaim his old No 7 shirt upon his return to Old Trafford, courtesy of the ever-gracious Edinson Cavani giving up the jersey for the returning luminary.
Expectations of a strong season are understandably going through the roof at United, although club legend and Ronaldo’s former team-mate Gary Neville has judiciously chosen to caution restraint instead, still believing that the Red Devils will NOT win the league this season.
“The big question every Manchester United fan, probably every fan in the Premier League, will be asking will be – is it enough for them [the new arrivals] to challenge for the title and win the title?’ he said.
“I don’t quite feel it is. I still feel there are a couple of teams that are better. The Premier League I think is the strongest it’s been since the mid-2000s.
“I think it’s an unbelievably strong Premier League at this moment in time with great coaches, great teams, great players and that’s been strengthened by this transfer window.”
Well, there you have it straight off-the-cuff in no uncertain terms from someone no less hardcore and loyal as a former United player, fan and club legend.
Interestingly, Neville is not the only discerning pundit nourishing doubts about the Portuguese lynchpin’s current ability to swing the pendulum in United’s favor as the great club’s former captain, certainly no minnow himself in the stratosphere of football, Roy Keane, also has not been bashful in admitting he has doubts over Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to United and doesn’t expect his arrival to end the club’s agonizing wait for a title.
“Yes I have [been swept with Ronaldo mania] it’s been great. It’s great [for] United, for the fans, for the Premier League,” Keane said on Sky Sports.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a world class player… the plusses and minuses… I just see the hunger and desires there. It’s not a payday for him, he’s only coming back to Man United to win stuff.
“My doubts are he won’t be the difference winning the big trophies… he’s a winner but Man United still have the same problems with or without Ronaldo…
“He would’ve looked at it [returning to MU] thinking, where can I go?” Keane continued.
“He wanted to come to United [at 17]… Real Madrid, Juventus, what he’s done with his national team, he’s greedy. We’ve put him up there with Messi, he’s a winner.
“I see a lot of plusses but the big picture – I don’t think they’ll be winning the League title.”
Hmm… one can’t help but ponder what the Italian mob at the Bianconeri are thinking about now, hearing these pie-in-the-sky pronouncements of the great CR7 trumpeted with such brimstones-and-hell-fire conviction in the bastions of Old Trafford?
Would they be provoked to indulge in a few verbal proclamations themselves, albeit liberally spiced with profanity perhaps? Who could blame them even if they were to do so?
Credit: Football Tribe Malaysia