Manchester United need to re-sign Ronaldo to win Champions League
Manchester United last won the Champions League in 2008, with a team featuring Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their counter attacking style, full of pace, power and directness, swept Europe aside. In 2009, they sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Since then, a thrashing in the Final from Barcelona aside, they haven’t made any noise in Europe. Coincidence? No.
When Manchester United sold Ronaldo, they made themselves measurably weaker. Since moving to Madrid, he has got better and better and is now in a discussion with only Leo Messi for the title of best player in the world. He scores at a strike rate of a goal a game, scores all kinds of goals, and as he showed against United in the Champions League, can win games on his own. He is a complete forward, his attacking game is without fault. If you were to design and build a footballer, you would come up with Ronaldo. But we know all that, right? Obviously, Man United would be better if they signed him. But I believe that they can only win the Champions League again any time soon if they sign him back.
Although Manchester United have a fabulous, deep squad, they don’t have any one who would be listed in the top 5 in the world, probably even the top 10. Certainly van Persie would be near that discussion, and an in form Rooney would be thereabouts, but they don’t have that truly special player that Real and Barcelona do, or an eleven packed with world class players like Bayern, Dortmund or Juventus. They’re not far away though, and the current XI would make for a more than adequate supporting cast for Ronaldo.
The top teams each have a defensive deficiency, but Man United don’t match up especially well against any of them. Real aren’t great against aerial threats and power, nor are Barcelona. Bayern and Juventus can struggle against pace, and Dortmund push so far up the field that they can be counter-attacked on. Man United pose a decent aerial threat. They have some quick players but not quite enough to play effectively on the counter against the top teams, or break open a game by running at the heart of a defence and shooting. So, if Manchester United are to be able to beat all of these teams and win the Champions League, they need a powerful player who can head the ball, is fast, can play on the counter-attack and can score goals. This is what leads me to Ronaldo.
The current Manchester United squad is good at all of these phases of attack, but they’re not exceptional at any of them. If they plug Ronaldo in, they suddenly become exceptional at all of them. Ronaldo would be the key to unlock the potential of the team to be explosive once more. Signing him would have a very positive affect on van Perise, and even more so, Rooney. The Englishman was at his best when Ronaldo was at the club, the famous counter-attacking goal the two of them scored against Bolton was a prime example. Having Ronaldo to push him, and measure his game against, spurred Rooney to greater heights. Since the departure of Ronaldo, Rooney has himself been the leader in this regard and it is a role he is not so well suited to. There is no one to push him to be better. If Manchester United were to sign Ronaldo, then we may well see Rooney return to the form that saw him in the same discussion as Ronaldo when the two of them were at Real Madrid. Since he left for Spain, Ronaldo has taken his game to absurdly high levels, while Rooney has plateaued. He needs his sparring partner back. If they sign Ronaldo, not only do they get him, but they get the old Rooney. As for van Persie, having Ronaldo in the team would open up more space for him to operate in. He could become more active in attacking phases and more involved in general play.
So the big question: could a move ever happen? The first instinct is, ‘obviously not’, but there are plenty of reasons to think it could. At Real Madrid, Ronaldo is respected but not loved. He feeds off adulation and there would be no ground in the world where he would get more of that than at Old Trafford. If he can win the Champions League for Real this season, it’s hard to see what else he could achieve in Spain, having won La Liga last year. Another reason is that if he played in England again, he wouldn’t be in Messi’s shadow. They would still be compared of course, but in different leagues against different opponents, their performances could be looked at only objectively rather than directly comparing stats. Maybe Ronaldo could win the second Ballon d’Or that he craves at the club where he won it first.
Manchester United are not far away from being Champions League winners. They very nearly put out Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, and Nani red card aside, they lost to a sublime goal from the Portugese in the Bernabeu and a poacher’s goal at Old Trafford. They got close, but didn’t have enough to get past Madrid. Ronaldo would be the injection of quality that would take them over the top and push them on for a third Champions League win. He is the one man who would give them the advantage over the top European clubs that they currently don’t match up well against. If they don’t sign him, they won’t have the right tools to exploit the small weaknesses of Europe’s other big clubs.