Reports last week suggested that Manchester United were ready to spend big in an attempt to bring former superstar Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford from Real Madrid – but Premier League performances mean it is baffling as to why they think it will ever happen.
There can be no doubting Ronaldo’s affection for his former club as he has made it no secret that he looks back on his time at the Red Devils as one of the happiest periods of his career.
Sir Alex Ferguson is regularly referenced as being ‘like a father’ and the Santiago Bernabeu superstar still talks about the Manchester United legend with the kind of reverence reserved for an Important older family member.
Fans of the Old Trafford club will be dreaming of the Portuguese goal machine returning to wear the red he did for six years and firing Louis van Gaal’s side back into the big time.
David Moyes was Ferguson’s chosen successor but his tenure in the hot-seat lasted less than a year. The disastrous campaign he oversaw ended up with a pathetic defence of their Premier League title and a seventh place finish, meaning no European football in over a decade.
Van Gaal was drafted in this summer and arrived in Manchester after leading the Netherlands to an impressive third place finish at the World Cup in Brazil. Fans were greatly enthused after the summer and there was a general feeling of optimism regarding the season ahead.
Additions of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind in the final week of the transfer window – the latter two late on deadline day – only reinforced that confidence, despite a poor start to the campaign.
Most of that confidence has been obliterated after the first five games of the Premier League season and the defeat to Leicester City on Sunday delivered a telling blow.
Leading 3-1 with an hour to go and, despite being a little shaky, looking as though they will comfortably see it out for victory thanks to some very impressive attacking play, United crumbled under some pressure and ended up losing 5-3.
Depressed faces among those sitting and watching on the bench, including Van Gaal and coach Ryan Giggs, the magnitude of the implosion could really be seen – the disappointment, bewilderment and dejection were palpable.
Hardly a good advert
Cristiano Ronaldo may have been watching on television at home while relaxing and probably in high spirits. This is because he had already done his job on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick as Real Madrid pulverised Deportivo la Coruna 8-2 at the Riazor.
Like Leicester, Deportivo are a side in in their first season back in the top flight, but they had no answer to the incredible attacking power of Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
It would not be outlandish to suggest Manchester United’s attacking ranks are as talented as Real Madrid’s, excluding Ronaldo, but the mentalities of the two teams are far removed.
If Cristiano Ronaldo is watching his old team now and sees such brittleness in the side that even a line-up as glittering as the one sent out at the King Power Stadium cannot overcome a limited, if spirited, Premier League new boy, why on earth would he desire to go back there.
We are only five games into the new league campaign, but changing the manager and signing lots of expensive new players does not mean last season did not happen.
Still no sign of a let up
It is the same lack of conviction, of confidence and hesitation that made Moyes’ United so vulnerable – there is currently no foundation for success and the malaise is persisting.
With no glamorous Champions League ties to reignite some passion midweek, or even a Europa League trudge to increase hunger through rotation and getting the winning feeling back, unhappiness can fester throughout the week leading to their next match.
Why would Ronaldo join a club in the state that Manchester United are in at the moment? He has started this season coming off the back of leading los Blancos to la Decima – their tenth European Cup/Champions League title – and is one of the best-paid footballers in the world.
Nobody can argue that the Portugal captain does not worry about his image or legacy and, at 29, would he consider risking seeing out his final few seasons at the top of European football trying to help Manchester United on a Liverpool-esque odyssey to get back into the Champions League years after falling out of it? It is doubtful.
No chance of dream move...for now
Van Gaal needs a win desperately to begin turning around fortunes at Old Trafford, but he has limited time to do it in. The abject humiliation of losing 4-0 to MK Dons in the second round of the Capital One Cup means they will have no midweek distractions until January.
Rotation will be difficult with so many high-profile stars in attack, yet the shambles that they are at the back will mean they are stuck with the personnel they have and ‘lesser’ Premier League opponents who now believe they are capable of getting at them.
There is little time to improve things and no available place to experiment or hone their defensive system where defeat does not engender further panic or outrage among fans, and calls of crisis from commentators.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or and last season was the best player in the world, so he really needs to be at the best team in the world – Manchester United are a long way from that at the moment.