Manchester United: Is Cristiano Ronaldo the answer or a backwards step?


With Manchester United heavily linked to the Portuguese superstar, would the deal take Louis van Gaal’s side up a level or would it be a hindrance?

After years of speculation and two years of relative underachieving, Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo seem to be heading for a reunion once again according to press in Europe.

After a slow, defensive start to the season which has seen Ronaldo still net 13 goals in 15 games, reports have emerged that the Portugal and Real Madrid all-time top goalscorer is looking to leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season. Those same reports have Manchester United at the front of the queue for his signature.

Now while this is natural considering his relationship and flirtations with Old Trafford since leaving the club in 2009, fans seem to be having mixed emotions.

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Ronaldo turns 31 years old in February and has already shown signs of a decline in performance compared to his usual incredible standards. That’s not to say that he’s been poor, just not as good as he has been in recent years.

On top of that, his famous ego has come to light even more in recent weeks due to his own and Real’s failings and was a huge story in Madrid following the 4-0 El Clasico defeat last weekend.

Reports emerged that he told the Real Madrid board that if Rafa Benitez wasn’t sacked, he would leave. It seems now that Florentino Perez has backed the manager.

But with the team that van Gaal has built in the last 18 months is there space for an egotistical, selfish goalscoring machine?

van Gaal confirmed that Manchester United are interested in signing Ronaldo and has been crying out for pace, creativity and goals from the wide positions since he took over. He’s tried to sign Gareth Bale on a number of occasions, while Memphis and Anthony Martial have both been signed and played in a wide position too. Juan Mata has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Manchester United player since his arrival six months prior to van Gaal and the Dutch boss plays him in a wide role too.

Regardless of Ronaldo’s inevitable decline, he still guarantees exactly that. In his prime, Ronaldo was scoring 60 goals a season. He guarantees you at least 20 goals a season but should van Gaal abandon his shape and philosophy at the expense of the superhuman?

A fee of £60 million has been touted with wages upwards of £250,000 per-week. That’s an awfully large amount of money for a player on the slope but realistically he’s the best readily available option.

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There are players I’d take above him right now. Gareth Bale is the perfect fit for the current side and is already Premier League proven, while Neymar is next in line to the throne currently occupied by his Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi. Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann is greatly admired by Manchester United fans while Thomas Muller would fill the striker role exceptionally and take a lot of pressure off the wide men.

After those elite players who are arguably ‘ungettable’, Ronaldo is comfortably the best option from the rest. Sadio Mane brings similar attributes but is nowhere near the level that Ronaldo is at, even at this stage of their careers. Similar can be said for the likes of Felipe Anderson and Marco Reus.

Something Ronaldo offers that none of the above mentioned can possibly offer is the ability to take pressure off the rest of the team. The way his career has gone, everything that happens around him becomes the Ronaldo show. Any defeat is blamed on him, any win he doesn’t score in is chastised and generally teams focus so much on him that other players on the pitch get more freedom.

It’s partly what makes his achievements so great because he hasn’t buckled under all that pressure and has still delivered.

Joining at 31 years old, the pressure would be the same but his experience would see him deal with it differently. The likes of Memphis Depay, Adnan Januzaj and Andreas Pereira would learn so much from him off the field, about his temperament and how he looks after himself. Their performances, with similar output in training, would follow although almost certainly not to that level.

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van Gaal is looking for 20+ goals a season from one player, Ronaldo guarantees that for the next three years at least. If he’s available in the summer and really does want to come, van Gaal and Manchester United should be ready to bring him home. He’s the final piece to the puzzle.