Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock return to Manchester United has raised spirits around Old Trafford to a level not seen since the club last captured the Premier League trophy in 2013.
Expectations grew even further last weekend as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner bagged a pair of goals on his first appearance back in a United shirt, helping them to a 4-1 victory over Newcastle.
As cries of ‘Viva Ronaldo’ rang around the Theatre of Dreams at full-time, it seemed things couldn’t be going any more smoothly for Ole Gunnar Solsjaer’s side.
Then, on Tuesday evening, the wheels suddenly came off for the rejuvenated Red Devils as they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Swiss side Young Boys in the Champions League. Granted, Ronaldo grabbed his customary goal to open the scoring, but the loss has definitely quelled the feel-good factor that was so vibrant in the red half of Manchester this time last week.
In his latest column for The Telegraph (subscription required), former Liverpool defender turned-TV pundit Jamie Carragher insisted that 36-year-old Ronaldo would not act as a miracle solution to turn United into a title-winning side. In fact, he went as far as to say that the Portuguese superstar may offer just as many problems as he does solutions to Solskjaer this season.
“Ronaldo could prove to be a better signing for the Premier League than for Manchester United,” declared Carragher.
“The question for United is whether Ronaldo’s arrival gets them any nearer to being a team that can win the title and Champions League again.
“On the evidence of the first few games, albeit they have won three of their first five matches, I would say no. Ronaldo’s match-winning ability will inevitably make United stronger. What his arrival alone cannot do is turn United into a title-winning unit or impose the distinctive way of playing they still lack.”
While Carragher backed Ronaldo to compete fiercely with the likes of Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Mo Salah for the Premier League Golden Boot, he does have concerns about the overall effect that the star’s arrival could have on other members of the United squad, particularly once the honeymoon period surrounding his return has inevitably faded.
“The most immediate impact is on Sancho,” suggested Carragher. “He’s now fighting with Greenwood for his favoured position on the right.
“He played on the left-wing in his first two United appearances, switching flanks in midweek prior to being subbed early when the team was reduced to 10 men.
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“There are also consequences for Pogba. After his encouraging start, he was back in centre-midfield against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle and for the last hour in midweek, when we saw the same flaws that have typified his United career.”
Aside from Sancho and Pogba, though, Solskjaer will soon also need to juggle a number of other high-profile names that are soon to return to full fitness, something which Carragher also points out.
“Where will Marcus Rashford fit into the equation upon his return from injury? And then there is Edinson Cavani, who Solskjaer was talking up in his latest press conference. It sounds like the manager does not want any of his stars to feel like they are back-ups,” argued Carragher.
Ignoring their surprising European defeat in midweek, United have made a strong start to the new season, dropping only two points after four matches. However, the opposition in those four games has hardly been the strongest – with each of their opponents so far currently residing in the bottom half of the Premier League table.
It remains to be seen whether Solskjaer will be able to successfully galvanise his squad of stars through what will no doubt be a tough season. The reality is that top players want to be competing at the highest level on a regular basis. The United boss has far more than just one player to keep happy.
Ole BOTTLES It AGAIN! Man Utd FLOP! (Via The Football Terrace)