Why Cristiano Ronaldo’s Return to Old Trafford was Manchester United’s Worst Transfer

The summer transfer season of 2021 has just started and everyone is wondering the same thing: will Cristiano Ronaldo join Manchester City? As a lifelong United fan, the situation at that time was looking pretty rosy to me. Despite losing the Europa League final, the team was on an upward trajectory and had finished second. Ole Gunnar Solskjær seemed to be slowly but surely improving and to those who had hoped he could mimic the longevity of his former manager the signs were starting to turn promising. 


Manchester City have been a club that has been incredibly well run over the past years. Pep Guardiola received all the players he wanted and improved arguably every single one of them. On the other hand, United was coming off a period where players were signed based on their Instagram follower count. This was a rare occurrence where City were on the verge of making a mistake and a very costly one at that, something very rare in recent times. The main sticking point is Ronaldo’s salary, which was reported to be at 53 million pounds over two years.


I am not a finance expert by any extent, but this is very close to the Haaland salary, which stands at 51 million pounds over a period of five years. Thus, a case can be made for them not being able to sign Erling Haaland if they signed Ronaldo. The second sticking point is Ronaldo’s playstyle. Despite never being able to like him, he was a superb goal scorer throughout his career and posed a physical and indeed mental threat to every opponent he faced.


As the years passed, his otherworldly physicality was slowly eroded and his speed and reaction time took a big hit. Instead of realizing this and working around these new limitations, he single-mindedly tried to play like he used to be able to do and was requiring more and more support from the team around him. He transitioned from being a spearhead of his sides to being a rock that had to be hurled at the opposition with the whole squad acting as a giant slingshot.


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In the type of football, Pep Guardiola likes to play, where the whole squad has to work as a unit and stick to his rigorous tactical instructions, Ronaldo simply would have not fit in. The reluctance to track back and his lack of will to pressure the opposition are not something big teams can work within the modern football climate.


This would have created the same clash between manager and player would have ensued, which would have brought disruption to the general unity and team spirit that Guardiola had spent the past years fostering. The ultimate outcome of that clash would not have resulted in the sacking of the manager, as it did at United, but would have significantly weakened this seemingly bulletproof side. Instead it cost the career of a man who truly loved this club and would have never stooped to the levels of Ronaldo to enforce his will upon the club. 


Ultimately, this move ended in the worst possible way, for player and club alike. United lost a huge amount of time and money trying to please an egomaniac and Ronaldo is now a pariah in the world of football and sought refuge in the warm bosom of Saudi Arabia’s money. For these reasons, the huge fee, the disruption he created and the missed chance of weakening one of our biggest rivals he surely has to go down as the worst signing in Manchester United’s history. Furthermore, this should finally prove that no player is bigger than this club.


By: Eduard Holdis / @HE_Ftbl

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthew Peters / Manchester United