Man Utd’s joyous Cristiano Ronaldo return papers over key transfer failing

Ole discusses Ronaldo debut

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No one could blame Manchester United fans for finding themselves caught up in the pandemonium and buzz of excitement surrounding the return of the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar put the finishing touches to his emotional return to Old Trafford on transfer deadline day after the club agreed a deal with Juventus.

The 36-year-old is back at Old Trafford as a player for the first time in 12 years after leaving for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo had left the club in a £80million world record transfer in 2009 and went on to score 450 goals for Los Blancos.

But after leaving for Juventus in 2018 and scoring 101 goals in three seasons in Turin, the veteran forward is back in Manchester.

Ronaldo’s transfer stole the headlines as he returns to the Premier League, having scored 118 goals for United in his first six-year spell at the club.

It marks a hugely successful transfer window for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the club’s recruitment chief John Murtough, who has negotiated some difficult deals over the past three months.

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Jadon Sancho finally sealed his protracted £73m move from Borussia Dortmund shortly after England’s Euro 2020 came to a tragic end at the last hurdle.

Then earlier in August, the Red Devils ended their long search for a world-class defensive partner for Harry Maguire.

United stuck a £35m deal to bring in Raphael Varane from Real Madrid and the 28-year-old has already won over the club’s fanbase with a fine debut against Wolves.

In making the trio of signings, Solskjaer has addressed problem areas that have prevented the club from winning a trophy since 2017 — but one still remains.

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Bringing in a serial winner such as Ronaldo was a no-brainer after the club succumbed to a disappointing defeat against Villarreal in the Europa League final in May.

Former Man United midfielder Owen Hargreaves suggested that defeat in Gdansk underlined the need for further reinforcements.

“Yeah, you’re right, because if they had won, that might have papered over the cracks and maybe you don’t really go out and get [signings],” he told BT Sport.

“But now Ole might think they need three or four. That game, it needed someone to come on and make a difference.

“United have been a long way off at times over the last few years, I actually think they’re only three players off.

“I think all they need is a centre-back, a central midfielder and a right winger. For me, that’s all they need.

“That will cost you a few quid, but the fact of the matter is, when you know exactly what you need, it’s easier to go out and get it, whoever that’s going to be.

“If they can do that this summer, Sancho, Varane, Marquinhos or Declan Rice, there are targets there that can make that United team better.”

Solskjaer has heeded Hargreaves’ advice in targeting three big signings and getting them all over the line without weakening the core of his squad.

But when the dust settles from Ronaldo’s arrival, it may feel that United simply papered over the cracks with a marquee signing.

What has been evident for some time is the need for a new defensive midfielder or a box-to-box operator a la N’Golo Kante.

The proceeds from the £25m sale of Daniel James to Leeds United may have been enough for Solskjaer to find a new midfielder to add to his squad.

But one of his top targets has already disappeared from his grasp after Eduardo Camavinga joined Real Madrid in a £25.4m deal on deadline day.

The Norwegian may point to his squad depth in that position in the shape of Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Donny van de Beek.

But the general consensus amongst United supporters is that perhaps only McTominay is equipped to play in the double pivot role.

Fred was singled out for criticism after an error-strewn display against Wolves despite their late 1-0 win at Molineux.

The Brazilian has been inconsistent at best since his £52m move from Shakhtar in 2018 and there have been calls to replace the midfielder.

Declan Rice, Aurelien Tchouameni and Yves Bissouma have all been mentioned as potential targets to slot in alongside McTominay.

But no moves materialised after Ronaldo’s signing appeared to drain the budget.

And now that the transfer window has shut, Solskjaer will no doubt be content with his current crop — perhaps also with the knowledge that he missed the chance to fit the final piece of the puzzle.

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