It all started with a pre-season game against Sporting Lisbon on August 6, 2003. Legend has it that already at half-time, Manchester United’s players forced Sir Alex Ferguson to buy Cristiano Ronaldo while mocking John O’Shea, who was tackled several times by the Portuguese youngster.
Of course, the then 18-year-old Ronaldo was already in the sights of United, but the control in question accelerated the process of attracting him and only a week later the Portuguese was already a player of the “red devils”.
“We have been negotiating for Cristiano for some time, but the interest in him from other teams recently has made us hurry – says Fergie, after United agreed to pay 18 million euros for the young talent. –
He is an extremely talented player, can play with both feet and operates across the entire width of the attack – on the right, left and center. After we played against Sporting last week, the boys kept talking about him in the dressing room and on the plane back they were begging me to buy him. He had made such a serious impression on them.
He is one of the most promising young footballers I have ever seen.”
And of course, as in most aspects of his career, Sir Alex was not wrong here. In England, the clash with the physical Premier League was head-on for Ronaldo, but the Portuguese continued to work on his body. Soon his feints became more and more successful, and with his powerful shots from every point in, around and in front of the penalty area he began to tear net after net.
Cristiano Ronaldo with the “Golden Boot” for the 2007/08 season when he scored 31 goals in the Premier League
At Old Trafford, Cristiano became the champion of England three times, won the Champions League and the first of his five Golden Balls. His transfer to Real Madrid made him the most expensive footballer in history, and with the “Kings” Ronaldo established himself as one of the greatest players in the history of football.
A less glamorous but by no means unsuccessful spell at Juventus followed, topped off with two league titles, a Coppa Italia and an individual Serie A top scorer award.
To get to the big comeback. On September 11, 2021, 18 years later, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped out again in the red and white of Manchester United at Old Trafford. Fans had pulled the dusty jerseys out of the closet and were looking forward to seeing one of their biggest favorites back in the colors of their favorite team.
And the fairy tale continued – the Portuguese scored two goals, and United celebrated with a resounding 4:1 victory over Newcastle. Old Trafford was buzzing. The Red Devils had rediscovered their leader. The club was ready to regain its old glory as a great in England and Europe.
But this time the outcome was different. Unlike 18 years ago, the fairy tale did not continue with victories and trophies. Ronaldo has not won a single trophy since returning to United. Not only did he fail to help the “red devils” to something memorable, but Cristiano also managed to do the unthinkable – turn the fans against him.
To get to the point where the club discards him like a foreign body – maybe a few months too late. United had to take a firm approach when the Portuguese failed to appear in time for summer training, and then openly began looking for a new team.
He stayed at Old Trafford only because he was not wanted anywhere else. But this seemed to anger him even more. He started playing tricks on new manager Erik ten Haag. He left the stadium at the break during the pre-season control, then went against him openly in the dressing room, and finally refused to come on as a substitute in a match against Tottenham.
The erstwhile hero has become an unwanted burden on the team. With his interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo insulted everyone at United – from the highest level to the lowest. He did not regret criticism and his former teammates, he did not say a single good word for anyone, except half-heartedly for his “football father” Ferguson, who also “should have known that the level of the club is not as it once was”.
Yes, United are not the same after the Sir Alex era, but that is no reason to show off the dirty shirts. The breakup was inevitable, and putting it off made it uglier than it needed to be.
The union dreamed of by fans was doomed, and only the most romantically inclined believed that it could lead to something positive. Unfortunately, the narrative of one of football’s brightest fairy tales abruptly changed course and instead of a happy ending ended with an (un)expected nightmare, turning into a horror story.