Imagine a world where Cristiano Ronaldo never left Manchester United.
Real Madrid would have been left tearing their hair out if a world-record bid of £80 million was rejected in 2009 and their main transfer target decided to keep plucking away at Old Trafford.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case and United fans know it all too well, meaning they’ve spent the last two decades keeping their fingers tightly crossed that Ronaldo will seek a fairytale reunion.
But despite an innumerable list of reports suggesting that Ronaldo would be the sentimental type to make it happen, it now looks highly unlikely that the Portuguese will play for the Red Devils again.
However, in a time of unbridled procrastination amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, that hasn’t stopped the team at HITC Sport from imagining a parallel universe where Ronaldo never left.
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What if Ronaldo never left Man Utd?
And more specifically, their presenter ‘The Irish Guy’ talked through roughly 14 things that could have happened in the world of football if Ronaldo committed his long-term future to United.
You can check out the full video down below, but keep scrolling for an overview of the 14 predictions that include everything from Jose Mourinho moving to Manchester and England beating Iceland…
1. Real Madrid sign Franck Ribery and keep Arjen Robben
In a transfer window where Los Blancos splurged on Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso, you can bet that Florentino Perez would have directed his £80 million elsewhere and Ribery is the prime suspect.
It was reported that the Bayern Munich winger was Real’s plan B and with no Ronaldo to force Robben out of the club, we could have seen ‘Robbery’ in the Spanish capital as opposed to Bavaria.
2. Michael Owen goes to Hull and Antonio Valencia goes to Madrid
And with Ronaldo sticking around in Manchester, that likely means that the Red Devils wouldn’t have scrambled around desperately in what turned out to be a pretty dire 2009 summer window.
Owen would never have angered every Liverpool fan on the planet and, instead, could have rendered reports of a link up with Phil Brown at Hull as truth.
As for Valencia, his services wouldn’t have been required at United with Ronaldo still in the dressing room, meaning an extra season at Wigan to encourage Mourinho to bring him to the Bernabeu.
3. Man Utd win the 2010 Premier League and Champions League
Considering United only lost out on the 2010 title by a single point, you can bet that they would have pipped Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea to the crown with an ever-improving Ronaldo in the side.
As for Europe, they likely would have progressed past Bayern Munich seeing as they don’t have Robben to score THAT volley in this alternate reality.
They would have booked their place in the final by defeating Lyon and on the evidence of their win over Inter Milan the season before, would likely have bagged a second European crown in three years.
4. Wesley Sneijder moves to Old Trafford
And with Inter Milan no longer in a position to demand big money for Sneijder, the Dutchman would have secured a move to Old Trafford after shining for the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup.
5. Massive changes at Chelsea
Ancelotti’s sacking from Chelsea in real life endures as one of the harshest dismissals in living memory, so predicting the same fate for him after a trophyless debut season in this alternate reality seems pretty spot on.
This would likely open the door for Ashley Cole to sign for Real, encouraging Roman Abramovich to replace him with Fabio Coentrao and reluctantly meet Atletico Madrid’s £40 million valuation for Sergio Aguero.
As for Ancelotti’s replacement, Guus Hiddink is a pretty sound guess considering his popularity with the players and the fact he did indeed return in 2015/16 on an interim basis in real life.
6. Liverpool win the Europa League and keep Rafael Benitez
An Atletico without Aguero could have opened the door for Liverpool to win the 2010 Europa League title, meaning Rafa Benitez would dodge the sack by defeating his real-life replacement.
7. England wouldn’t have lost to Iceland at Euro 2016!?
So, without Roy Hodgson ever moving to Liverpool, The Irish Guy has gone for one of his more ambitious predictions by suggesting he never would have become England manager as a result.
Therefore, that might have meant that England would have avoided defeat and humiliation against Iceland at Euro 2016 or, at the very least, a lack of Harry Kane taking corners.
8. Newcastle suffer relegation
Benitez sticking around at Anfield would also mean no Andy Carroll or Luis Suarez in the winter of 2011, meaning that Newcastle wouldn’t have £35 million to play around with under Alan Pardew.
By HITC’s estimations, that would mean no fifth-place finish for the Toon in 2011/12, nor Europa League qualification, and a swift return to Championship football.
9. Tottenham sign Andy Carroll and sell Harry Kane
On that basis, you just know that Carroll would have signed for another top Premier League club, so Tottenham seems a fair guess and that could spell disaster for none other than Kane.
It’s predicted that Kane would be shipped off to a club like Crystal Palace where, after inevitably impressing for two seasons, he’d be snapped up by Liverpool instead of Christian Benteke down the line.
10. Chelsea win the 2010/11 title, but then United regain it
But anyway, back to Ronaldo. Chelsea could lift the 2011 Premier League title with a fit and hungry Aguero leading the line, only to relinquish it again the following season as a prime CR7 came into his own.
11. Jose Mourinho moves to Man City and spends big
During this Chelsea-United duopoly, Sheikh Mansour would have been forced to spend more than ever, splashing out on players like Robin van Persie, Daniele de Rossi and Luis Suarez from Ajax.
Roberto Mancini would have been sacked for failing to win the league in two and a half seasons, making Mourinho a clear replacement after struggling against Pep Guardiola at Real without Ronaldo to reply upon.
12. Andre Villas-Boas and Louis van Gaal at Liverpool
Now this is a long one to explain… Owen’s goals would mean Hull stayed up in 2010, meaning Nigel Pearson would remain at Leicester and Brendan Rodgers never would have earned the Swansea job.
That, in turn, would ensure that Rodgers – who might have taken a coaching role at Manchester City – would not be named as Liverpool manager, rather the highly-rated Villas-Boas would be.
And considering Van Gaal was set to become Liverpool’s Sporting Director until Rodgers requested otherwise, the path would have been clear for the Dutchman to oversee the AVB era.
13. Jurgen Klopp replaces Ferguson at Old Trafford
With Ferguson hanging up his hairdryer after Mourinho wins back-to-back titles with his bottomless pit of money at City, the Red Devils turn to Klopp as opposed to David Moyes as his replacement.
That’s because Borussia Dortmund could foreseeably have been crowned European champions with Robben unable to score THAT Wembley winner by way of playing for Real.
14. Man Utd win three consecutive league titles
So, with Klopp and Ronaldo working together in their primes, it’s predicted that United would win three Premier League titles on the bounce and two Champions League crowns for good measure.
And yes, that does mean Leicester’s 5,000-1 miracle victory would never have happened.
What a wild and wacky place football could have been based on one decision alone.
Obviously, it’s nigh on impossible to predict the sort of butterfly effect that Ronaldo choosing United over Real could possibly have had, but don’t pretend as though it isn’t fun and exciting to imagine.
There can be no denying that United would have enjoyed even more success during Sir Alex Ferguson’s final seasons with the sort of prime Ronaldo we saw at the Bernabeu.
Seeing Ronaldo smash home 30+ goals in the Premier League would have been a sight to behold, while England fans would be over the moon at the prospect of a Hodgson-less Euro 2016.
As for Mourinho pulling the strings at the Etihad Stadium and Villas-Boas barking orders on Merseyside, we’ll let fans make their own minds up about those off-the-wall forecasts.
But as far as United supporters are concerned, maybe it’s best to just enjoy the thought of this parallel universe for what it is and where’s the harm in that during uncertain times like these?