Murmurings, rumors, facts.
That is the way the Ronaldo transfer played out at the start of the league campaign. Small little rumblings online that no one really paid attention to. Surely he wouldn’t return to Old Trafford? Why would he? Then rumors were everywhere, he was going to be joining Solskajer and the rest of the lads…..wait no, he was joining Pep and his Man City revolution. That transfer seemed to make all the sense in the world.
Man City needed a no.9 after the failure to land Harry Kane, Ronaldo no doubt will help increase brand exposure ( Empty-had anyone?) and it is another chance for the Blues to stick is to the Reds. Once again we were still in the rumor phase of the Ronaldo transfer, so there was still hope for United fans that he could still return. A squad bolstered by the likes of Jadon Sancho and Rafael Varane, it seemed if they could snatch Ronaldo, even at the age of 36, it may be a game-changer..
See it is hard to remember now, but United did finish up second the season previously. Admittingly they trailed the winners, their cross-city rivals, by 12 points come to the final whistle. However signs seemed somewhat positive during that season and after years of mismanagement, real change was afoot. Solskjear seemed to be doing something right in the eyes of many fans, even more importantly the owners, despite the Europa League final defeat.
Then it happened….
Yes Ronaldo returned back, the rumors became fact, Cristiano Ronaldo was a Manchester United player once again. The biggest worry United fans had at the start of the season would be if their new Cavani 7 jerseys would remain the same. CR7 is a huge brand, after all, can not be annoyed the new star once again and not grant him the number that typically was reserved for legendary figures. Come to his debut against Newcastle, Ronaldo graced the hallowed turf of the Theatre of Dreams once again. It was the stuff of dreams instead, bagging a double in the 4-1 demolition of the Magpies, To paraphrase Kevin Keegan ” I loved it”.
Dreams were not long to start turning into nightmares though, with a loss a 2-1 Champions League loss to Young Boys only three days later. Typical of United the last few years, great performance followed by something extremely lackluster. Similar to what Arsenal has experienced after their highs in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
It did not take long for things to fall apart earlier this season, losses to Leicester and Liverpool in the league back to back were a tough ones to swallow. ( Nine goals conceded in those two games by the way) Ronaldo certainly started cutting a frustrated figure on the pitch. The murmurings started happening again, not everything was ok within the United camp. By the time United walked off the pitch after another loss, this time to Man City, they had only recorded four points out of the previous 18 up for grabs.
Rumors were everywhere that players were less than impressed with the standard of coaching they were receiving under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. To be honest, there was not any evidence of any real coherent plan out on the pitch. Set-Pieces were still a mess, despite bringing in a new set-piece coach, just nothing was clicking. Come the game against Watford, Solskjaers position was looking increasingly under pressure. 90 minutes later, after a 4-1 loss to the newly-promoted Watford, those rumors looked like they would be cemented as fact.
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Solskajer did indeed lose his job as head coach of Manchester United, a whole 11 days after that Watford game. The indecisiveness from the board was more embarrassing than the defeat itself. However, it’s that type of board-level ineptness that Manchester United fans have come to expect over the last few years. Ed Woodward, the man in charge upstairs, has overseen the spending £1.2 billion, the sacking now of five managers, repeated failures to qualify for the Champions League football, and then the hopeful eradication of that competition by being one of the main instigators of the European Superleague. It’s ok though, cares about appointing a new manager when he could be signing a new official instant noodle sponsor for the club.
Ronaldo is used to seeing managers come and go, never happened in his time at Old Trafford of course, yet Real Madrid and Juventus are different stories. In total, he had 5 managers in nine seasons at Madrid, with Pellegrini, Ancelloti, Mourinho, Benetiz, and Zidane. While in three years at Juventus he played for three different coaches Allegri, Sarri, and Del Piero. Some of those names, along with Sir Alex Ferguson demand respect for their previous managerial exploits. United fans were buzzed once again about what the future may hold, what manager will come in and change everything. When Ralf Ragnick was appointed, most of the fanbase all said the same thing…..who?
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Ralf Ragnick became the 28th man to take over the managerial reigns at Old Trafford. Micheal Carrick was the 27th man, a man warming the seat until Ragnick took charge. the reason why I highlighted in the previous section the 11 days it took to sack Solskjaer after Watford defeat, was the international break would have been the ideal time to blood in a new manager. Instead, the board stuttered and spluttered in their hiring process leading to them experiencing visa delays after the appointment of Ragnick.
All though Ragnick seemed like an unknown entity, the man is highly respected within soccer circles. Credited as the man who mentored Klopp and Tuchel, Ragmnick was nicknamed “Godfather Of Gegenpressing”. Finally, a style of play would be on show after a few weeks yelled United fans on message boards and Twitter, which may as well be rooftops in their heads.
It is safe to say, that the new dogged style along with a different formation was truly a sign of hope…..for the 30 minutes we saw it against Crystal Palace, it was delightful. Largely though, it is more of the same. Millionaires in their uniforms run around after a ball on the pitch, getting annoyed when things do not go their own way. In the 15 points up for grabs in the Ragnick era, the team managed 10 points. Not so bad, but the victories were hardly dominating displays, entertaining affairs. the draw against Newcastle and loss to Wolves recently bundles with new murmurings of squad discontent gives one a sense of serious de ja vous.
It is too dark, so I’m taking the ball and going home
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Apparently, the team leaks seem to suggest the United squad is uninspired by the training methods of one “Godfather”. Taking a particular dislike at having to train later in the evening than normal. A good chunk of the squad want to, or apparently are going to leave between now and the summer. Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edison Cavani, and Juan Mata (remember him) all have their contract finishing up in the Summer, while Donny Van De Beek, Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, and Anthony Martial all seemingly want out. According to reports, there are as many as 17 players who are jaded at United and looking at the exit.
Murmurings of unhappiness are rife within the squad, however, one murmuring has already escalated to a rumor that Cristiano Ronaldo may want to leave, will that become fact? Ronaldo has supposedly held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes over doubts he made a serious mistake joining the club. A serial winner with club and country, Ronaldo’s winning mentality was supposed to reverberate throughout the dressing room. If word is to be believed though many seem to dislike Ronaldo’s attitude, even Mason Greenwood has apparently become annoyed at the influence the legend holds within the squad.
These new “crisis” talks may be overblown, but I would not be surprised. Manchester United as a dynasty continues to disappoint, the atmosphere is clearly bad among supporters. Losing a figurehead such as Cristiano Ronaldo will only further dampen spirits around Old Trafford and beyond. It is only rumored for now, but as we have seen a lot recently, those rumors can quickly become fact.
PSG in the summer anyone?