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Cristiano Ronaldo will be ‘make or break’ for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, says Gary Neville

Manchester United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus at the end of the summer transfer window, which is a reunion that has been suggested since the summer of 2013 – but never happened, until now. It is something that would have been great for United post-Sir Alex Ferguson too.

However, now that it has been done, a United legend and former teammate of Ronaldo has heaped pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggesting that the re-signing of the 36-year-old will either be make or break for him. It is not something that was said maliciously – but because people will turn on the manager even more if it fails.

The 46-year-old, who now works as a pundit and commentator for Sky Sports, amongst other things, recently spoke to BBC 5 Live about Solskjaer re-signing Ronaldo and he said:

“There is no doubt Ronaldo is a make or break signing for Ole.”

Of course, with that being said, without more context, there is going to be a massive number of criticism articles based on so few words. I think Solskjaer knows that Ronaldo returning to the club, even at 36 is a big deal and he knows that if everything starts to go down the pan, he will be responsible.

Ronaldo has made a fine start to live back in Manchester, scoring a brace on his second debut at the club against Newcastle United in the Premier League, in which United won the match 4-1. He also scored in the opening UEFA Champions League group stage match against Young Boys, despite United falling to a 2-1 defeat. On Sunday, he scored his fourth goal since he return to United, helping the club beat West Ham United 2-1 in the Premier League.

Ronaldo looks set to miss the Carabao Cup third round match with the Hammers on Wednesday evening, but will be fresh for the visit of Aston Villa to the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday afternoon, in which the match has been brought forward from the original 3pm BST kick off, now being played at 12:30 BST – the same time as Chelsea host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

There is much for United to achieve under Solskjaer and despite the moaning about defeats or draws, the people doing the moaning do not seem t be saying much when United win, which has happened in five of the six matches played this season. It gives the suggestion that some of these critics on social media are hell bent on watching Solskjaer fail at United – just so they can say they were right – strange, right?

Solskjaer has done well at United thus far – aiming to clear the dead wood at the club, which is a work in progress but something the manager has started to achieve in doing. He also has brought in many of his own players, who have largely done well – despite criticisms on some of their performances, because some people seem to forget that footballers are no robots or the pixels they compare on the FIFA video games.

Neville has a point in what he has said and there is no way that he would set out to negatively affect United but only say what he has been feeling. So far, Ronaldo’s return to the Theatre of Dreams has been largely positive and when he failed to score or assist, of even show promise in a match, the critics will be out in force to earn some money from criticism, never mind how reactionary it might be.

United are on the right path to success. Solskjaer needs to win a trophy to kickstart his time at the helm of the Old Trafford club. He has been backed this summer in the signing of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo, although the club could have done more to help him get rid of some of the players he wanted rid of.

This could have allowed him to strengthen in a few more key areas, especially the defensive midfield position. If United had gone into this season with this area of the squad covered, they could have gone full speed into challenging for the Premier League title.

Rotation will become key this season and Solskjaer will need to keep the lies of Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay fresh, as they are the main players who will excel in the defensive midfield area. Fred has little worth to United and does not seem to fit into United plans moving forward, which is a shame as they will not recoup anything near the money paid for him in the summer of 2018.

Written by John Walker

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘broke transfer pact’ by leaving Juventus – reports

Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly broke a transfer pact with Juventus by leaving the club at the end of the summer transfer window, according to reports.

It was expected that the 36-year-old would see out the final year of his contract at the Italian club, leaving in the summer of 2022. However, the player returned to United with the deal being agreed on the 27 August, which was completed on deadline day.

It has bene suggested by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes had agreed with Juventus that the player would not leave the club after the 15 August 2021, giving the club a fortnight to sign a replacement.

It seems rather strange that this rumour would materialise at this time, which funnily enough sees United challenging the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and Juventus sitting in 18th place in the Serie A table.

At the time the deal with United was struck, Ronaldo was linked to Manchester City with the City fans laughing at United supporters and copying Ronaldo’s goal celebration, which was funny to see at the time – even funnier on the Friday evening after his return to United was announced.

It was also revealed that Mendes offered Ronaldo to Atletico Madrid but the club turned the chance to sign Ronaldo down because of a prospective backlash from supporters of the club.

Juventus ended up signing Moise Kean on a two-year loan from Everton, which included an obligation to buy the player. Kean came through the youth ranks at Juventus, playing for the first team from 2016 to 2019 before signing for Everton, a move which did now work and the player being loaned to Paris Saint-Germain last season.

So it just goes to show that the club did not need a fortnight to replace Ronaldo and the club seemed happy to offload the player, which makes these reports even more strange. It was rumoured that the club did want to offload the player anyway during the summer.

Getting his ‘eye-watering’ wages off the books was one of the reasons Juventus wanted to get rid of the player, so these reports just seem to be bitter and an attempt at bad mouthing the player, which seems so pathetic. Ronaldo’s return to United has become big news in the Premier League.

Since making his debut against Newcastle United in the Premier League, Ronaldo has scored four goals in three matches, scoring three in the Premier League and one in the UEFA Champions League. He how has 122 goals for the Old Trafford club in 295 appearances and is four goals away from matching the goal tally of manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ronaldo’s return to United might have been six to eight years too late but despite his age, he still seems to be able to offer something, which has been seen by his four goal and his determination to score goal and win matches for United – despite only paying three times so far.

United will face West Ham United for the second time this week, this time in the Carabao Cup in a match which will be played at Old Trafford. Ronaldo scored in the Premier League fixture at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon, which was a 2-1 victory for United with Jesse Lingard scoring the winner.

It is expected that Ronaldo might be rested for this match but on the bench in case he is needed, which shows the clout he still has, even at his age. Zlatan Ibrahimovic proved that age is just a number with his form at United, at least before injury, scoring 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 appearances for the club.

Another player to show this, again for United is Edinson Cavani, who signed for the club as a free agent in the summer of 2020, and so far has scored 17 goals and six assists in 40 appearances for the club so far and despite the fact he has few minutes for the club this season, he could be leading the line against the Hammers.

A player with the record like Ronaldo will always garner attention in the media, both positive and negative. The player has scored 678 goals and 229 assists in 898 competitive appearances at club level, also scoring 111 goals, a record, for Portugal, including nine hat-tricks. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner could even extend that tally in his time at United.

Written by John Walker

Veteran Players at Manchester United: Risk vs Reward?

The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Manchester United this summer has been the main story in football for several weeks, with everyone having an opinion on the signing, weighing up the pros and cons of signing the striker, regarded by many as one of the best players of all time. 

One of the key talking points of the transfer has been the age of Ronaldo, at 36, the €13.5 million United paid for him is the most expensive fee ever paid for a footballer over the age of 35. For some, even for Ronaldo, this was as risk due to many players retiring around 35 in football, however at United, there is a history of players achieving great things while in the perceived twilight of their careers. 

The most obvious example of this would be Ryan Giggs, a player who was an Academy graduate at the club, Giggs won all there was to win at United before retiring at the age of 40 and becoming Louis van Gaal’s assistant coach, as reported by ESPN. If we perceive over 35 as the benchmark for players in the twilight of their careers, Giggs achieved a tremendous amount during that period. 

Most notably, at the age of 35, Ryan Giggs was awarded with the PFA player of the year award, a particularly prestigious award that is voted for by fellow players in the league, with the Guardian reporting it as the ‘highest honour possible’.

 During this season Giggs made 47 appearances for the club, scoring four goals and getting 17 assists across all competitions. During this season he played a crucial role in getting Manchester United into another Champions league final as well as winning the Premier League, League Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. 

The fact that Giggs won this accolade in a season where United achieved so much, indicates how crucial he was to the success of the team, and shows that even in the perceived twilight of his career, Giggs was more than a valuable player for United. Many fans will be hoping that Ronaldo can replicate the longevity of the Welsh winger. 

Teddy Sheringham is another footballer who had the best season of his United career, in terms of goals and assists, when he was 35. In the 2000/01 season Sheringham scored 21 goals across all competitions, significantly helping United win the Premier League that season. On top of this, Sheringham was awarded the PFA player of the year award, becoming the oldest player to do so at the time, as was reported by Sky Sports

Once again this shows how valuable veteran players can be at a club like United with both Giggs and Sheringham winning one of the most prestigious personal accolades in football at an age many pundits and fans deem a player ‘finished’ at the highest level. 

More recently United have been criticised for signing players for cheap prices who are in their 30’s, most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016, and Edinson Cavani in 2020. Both players were signed on high wages and were in their mid 30’s at the time of signing, leading to criticism on both. 

However, both strikers have played vital parts during their time at the club, with Ibrahimovic leaving the club having scored 29 goals in 53 appearances and helping the club towards the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League trophies, as reported by Manchester Evening News.

Similarly, Cavani’s signing was met with suspicion from fans and pundits alike, with Gary Neville labelling the transfer of the Uruguayan ‘very last minute’ as reported by Sky Sports. However, Cavani soon changed opinions, scoring crucial goals all through the 2020/21 campaign, ending with 17 goals and 6 assists in 39 appearances. Cavani once again proved that signing an experienced player can be hugely beneficial to a club like United.  

These examples are of course highlighting the instances when players towards the end of their career have been a success for United, and there is no doubt that at other times this strategy has not paid off for the club, in recent memory players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Alexis Sanchez both arrived at the club in their twilight, with big expectations, and did not live up to them. 

 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proven during his time at manager that his main focus is developing a young team that can go on to great success, shown through the integration of Mason Greenwood and the more recent signing of youngster Jadon Sancho

However, he has also highlighted how key experience is for a team like United with the signings of Harry Maguire, Cavani and now Ronaldo. Solskjaer commented on the suspicions of Ronaldo’s age stating ‘I am sure he likes all the talk about being old. Make it personal and he will show what he can do.’, as reported by The Guardian

There is no doubt that Ronaldo can go on to replicate the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Ryan Giggs during his second spell at United and bring much success to the club. The striker has already gotten off to the perfect start, scoring two in his second debut against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. 

With no sign of the Portuguese star slowing up any time soon, United fans will be hopeful that once again one of their veteran players can prove the doubters wrong. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United likely to continue after summer transfers – reports

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was expected to run down his contract at the Old Trafford club this season, leaving as a free agent next summer for the second time in his career. However, the transfer business conducted by the club this summer, in which Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo all signed for the club could see the player make a U-turn on his future, as reported by The Mirror.

If these rumours of the player changing his min are true, United could be set for success in the not too distant future.

Pogba first left United in the summer of 2012, rejecting a new contract to remain at the club, which was then managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Pogba signed as a free agent for Juventus, in which compensation was paid as the player had come through United’s academy. Four years later, United signed Pogba for £89 million with the player looking to finish what was started at the club.

In his first season back at United, then managed by Jose Mourinho, Pogba helped the Old Trafford club lift the EFL Cup, now the Carabao Cup and the UEFA Europa League, which meant that United had now won every trophy they had ever played for in the history of the club.

Since winning their last trophy, United have faltered in rediscovering that trophy-winning form, overcoming their semi-final hoodoo last season by earning a UEFA Europa League final against Villarreal, which was lost on 11-10 on penalties. It was a shame that United could not win the Europa League last season but the trials and tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic were just one of the reasons the club failed.

Many may see that blaming the inability to win on the pandemic might be childish, but you have to look at the three months delay to the 2019/20 season, which saw the season finish during June and July 2020 with the UEFA competitions being played out through August 2020. That with the 2020/21 season starting in September, it saw United with around three weeks break with no pre-season and effectively continuing one season straight after the other which resulted in continued fatigue.

It is being suggested that the 28-year-old French midfielder has had a change of heart over his future at United, which if true is a good thing as United could achieve so much more with the player in the squad this season.

Pogba has started the season in fine form with United’s start to the season, getting four assists in the 5-1 demolition of Leeds United in the clubs opening match of the season, getting another assist in the 1-1 draw with Southampton, then getting two more in the 4-1 victory over Newcastle United at the weekend.

United have scored 11 goals in their opening four Premier League matches this season, conceding just three, which is a much better start to the season compared to last season, where they fell to a home defeat on the opening day of the season to Crystal Palace, losing five more matches, all at Old Trafford during the course of the season in the league.

Pogba did not have the greatest 2020/21 season but his start to the current season shows that he wants to make amends for that.

The reports in The Mirror on Monday seem to come from a report by The Athletic, which seems to suggest the return to Old Trafford of a certain Ronaldo is the major boost in Pogba’s mind seemingly changing, which shows that United are seeking to create something for the future and the now in their bid to challenge for silverware both this season and in the future.

Ronaldo’s second debut at the club saw him score a brace against Newcastle, which turned back the years at the Theatre of Dreams.

Over the years, Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola has been vocal about United’s demise, which you can see from the point of view of the player, in that he wants to achieve success with the club, especially during the peak of his career.

But the words from Raiola were agitating and seemed to suggest that he wanted to move his client on to pastures new once again, if only to earn some money for himself, which he seems to be obsessed by as an agent. Another client of his, Erling Haaland seems to be wanted by many clubs, which will earn Raiola a tidy sum, which is something he seems to care about more than anything else.

If Pogba ends up committing his foreseeable future to United, and it is a good deal for the club – not something that will see the player earn £400,000 per week, as has been talked about in the media recently, it could be a good deal, especially if the French FIFA World Cup winner wants to achieve things for this club once again.

United winning the Premier League title for the first time since the 2012/13 season would be considered a great success for the club, based on the fact Manchester City seem to have dominated – winning the title four times, with Chelsea winning twice and both Leicester City and Liverpool winning one each.

United will obviously be seeking to signing more players next summer with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all entering their last year of their contracts, plus Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to finally sort out the midfield, with Nemanja Matic the only experienced defensive midfielder at the club.

Whatever United manage to achieve this season will only be the beginning as the club looks like they mean business in getting back to winning ways and challenging for silverware for the foreseeable future.

Written by John Walker

Ranking Manchester United’s best front three

With the homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani opting to stay another year at the club, Manchester United have a plethora of options offensively. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a crucial job in identifying what his best front three will be to go into the rest of this season and how to keep the squad well rotated as well as maintaining the high quality throughout the team.

In previous seasons, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood/Daniel James has been the main attacking trio. But with the departure of James, the injury to Rashford and the loss of form of Martial, United’s current attack could look far different. Solskjaer has many options to choose from as especially last season with Martial’s inconsistency and Cavani’s superb form, Solskjaer looked to play Paul Pogba off the left wing so he could have more effect offensively. 

Thus, Solskjaer has even more versatility upfront especially with the signing of Jadon Sancho to add to the mix. The key thing for Solskjaer and his coaches is finding the right balance. On paper an attack can look strong but without balance and chemistry it won’t work. Since Bruno Fernandes’ signing, United have heavily relied on individual brilliance to get over the line, and in some games that is important but the constant need for the result to be secured as a result of a moment of magic is unsustainable. 

Therefore, Solskjaer must make sure the front three he opts with will have the right blend to create the right rhythm and impetus in their attacking play. With all the options Solskjaer has and the varying attributes each player has, it’s likely he will look to use different front threes in different games suited to the opposition. 

Against the big teams, Solskjaer has opted to use a pacey front three that could expose the oppositions defence on the counter-attack. The best front three fitted to that would be Rashford, Ronaldo and either Sancho or Greenwood. With Rashford’s successful surgery, he’ll be looking to get back into the first team by October and with his blistering speed he can humiliate defences especially if he has space to run into. 

Despite Ronaldo’s age, he still has some good speed in him and with Martial losing a couple yards of pace recently, and Cavani not being renowned for his pace, Ronaldo would provide the best balance to sustain this counter-attack. Off the right wing it’s a trickier decision as both Sancho and Greenwood are fast. Greenwood brings lethal finishing as he cuts in off the right whereas Sancho provides a more creative option with his silky dribbling and precise vision. 

As Ronaldo is a pure finisher and Rashford is more of a shooter rather than a creator, Sancho may fit this front three better as he provides the balance of finishing with that creative aspect, whereas Greenwood would make that front three quite predictable as they all would look to shoot and thus Rashford, Ronaldo and Sancho would be the best front three for a counter attacking game.

In games when the opposition sit back, it will need a mix of creativity but also the right finishers to take the few chances they get. With Fernandes’ unique ability to score lots of goals from midfield, Solskjaer could look to give him license to shoot with Ronaldo in-front of him creating the Portuguese linkup and then have Pogba off the left and Sancho off the right. 

Often when playing against the defensive teams, United struggle to create many chances but with Sancho, Pogba and Fernandes’ creativity it would be more effective at breaking down the ‘low block’ and with a lethal goalscorer in Ronaldo he will take the chances that are provided.

In some games its neither pure counter-attack or pure offense against low block, it has elements of both. Often, we’ve seen this against teams like Southampton, Wolves, Aston Villa and Brighton. These teams won’t go fully at you but will press high and won’t sit back. To combat this, Solskjaer should implement that pace on the counter-attack but also that high technical ability and thus should use Rashford off the left, Ronaldo through the middle and Sancho off the right. 

In all these teams, form is important and currently Greenwood is un-droppable, but due to his unbelievable finishing, this can be exploited late in a game off the bench when the opposition is more penned in.  The balance between Rashford’s direct running and speed with Sancho’s quality weight of pass and dribbling should provide a solid counter-attack but also enough if the game adapts to a low block and United will be able to break it down.

Ultimately, I think the front three is very dependent on the opposition as each forward has different qualities. Although Cavani doesn’t start in any of these, he like Greenwood could be very impactful off the bench and provide those trademark runs to find space and take a game and win it individually. 

Ronaldo’s signing provides proven quality in the box which will be influential throughout and then the alternation between Pogba, Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho on the wings will create pivotal squad depth and tactical flexibility for Solskjaer to ensure he has the right options to win the game to take United back to winning silverware.

Written by Ethan Bents

Opinion: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return must spark title challenge

After a chaotic transfer window finally comes to an end, Manchester United find themselves with four new players, one perhaps more familiar than the others. Cristiano Ronaldo made a sensational return towards the end of the window, signing from Italian giants Juventus for a reported initial fee of £12.86 million although the legendary forward was initially thought to be heading to Manchester City. 

Fortunately for the red side of Manchester, transfer proceedings took a dramatic turn when it was revealed that United had decided to enter the race for Ronaldo’s signature. This then set in motion a dream return for both Ronaldo and United fans, who have always passionately supported the 36-year-old since his departure back in 2009. 

Naturally, this signing has rekindled a wave of nostalgia amongst everyone connected to the club, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed Ronaldo to be a difference maker rather than just a nostalgia trip.

The Ronaldo that left United in 2009 was vastly different to the player that has returned today. Aside from being a more mature, refined football player, Ronaldo’s natural position has altered massively throughout the course of his career. Everybody knows Ronaldo was signed from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003, after bedazzling Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in a friendly.

Ronaldo played as a raw and untamed winger during the first few years for United, sometimes frustrating his manager but always showing his quality and potential. Gradually Ronaldo shifted his role slightly to one more of a wide forward rather than an out and out winger, a shift that elevated his game massively. 

This shift largely happened during the final years at United, meaning at Real Madrid he became even more of a goal scoring machine, scoring 450 goals in 438 games. It was during his final years in Madrid that Ronaldo was deployed as a striker, the embodiment of the complete package. 

When he finally did depart Los Blanco’s for Juventus, Ronaldo was an experienced predatory striker, and despite a loss in pace he was more lethal than ever, particularly in his incredible aerial ability. Ronaldo managed to bag 36 goals in 44 appearances in what would be his final season with Juventus, an incredible record for a player over 35 years of age.

With this being said, United will feel like they have landed a huge asset in the push towards being the Premier League champions once more. Ronaldo will almost definitely play as a striker for Solskjaer, slotting into United’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. An emphasis on quality crossing will be applied to the United fullbacks, knowing full well Ronaldo is ruthless in the box when good deliveries are provided to him. 

It was initially thought that United would rely on the services of veteran striker Edinson Cavani and young talent Mason Greenwood in the striker role this season, however, Ronaldo’s arrival means that it’s likely Greenwood will play more games from the flanks rather than through the middle. The addition of Ronaldo also means that United won’t have to rely on Cavani as much, the Uruguayan unable to play every game due to his age, with both strikers at the club United will have all important quality squad depth. 

Conversely, it is possible that Ronaldo plays off the left as he did once before, although I think this option is unlikely considering his attributes are best suited to that of a striker now, while United already possess several talented wide players in the form of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford to name a few.

Another huge facet of Ronaldo’s arrival is that he doesn’t just bring guaranteed goals, he brings a renewed sense of spirit and heralds a new age of ambition from the club. The fact that the signing was portrayed as a one-up on rivals Manchester City also adds to the excitement, the noisy neighbours have grown deafeningly loud in the past decade.

This signing could be seen as the start of a powershift, a harkening back to the glory days, not to mention the fact City were actively looking for a striker to fill the void left by Sergio Aguero. The additions of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane only add to the narrative that United are building something exciting, a team capable of challenging for the Premier League for the first time in years.

Ronaldo has signed a two-year deal with the option for a further year, and he spoke of his pride to resign to a club he calls a home and reiterated his enduring desire to win things. At the age of 36 many would have expected Ronaldo to move to a league less demanding such as the MLS or Ligue 1, so his move to the Premier League is only a testament to his elite winning mentality. 

This is the mentality that United must galvanise amongst the whole squad in order to bring the club back to glory, and there will be no better time than now for United to move onto the next level and start winning trophies again. If anyone can install that winning mentality and restore the club to glory its United’s most famous number seven.

Written by Sam Wilson

European Glory? Analysing Manchester United’s Champions League Chances

The draw for the UEFA Champions League group-stage has now taken place and Manchester United have been drawn in Group F with Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys. It’s been 13 years since United lifted the trophy, and last season’s Champions League campaign ended in heartbreak for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as United stumbled in their final two group games, albeit against tough opposition.

This year marks a fresh approach to the Champions League with an improved squad and an ever-growing ambition amongst the players. This article will exam the strength of United’s group opposition and potential issues they may encounter, while also looking at some of the more elite competition United could face later, provided they get through to the latter stages. Could this be the season United emerge as a dominant force inEurope’s premier competition once more?

The format for the group is standard procedure and United will play six games in total throughout the group-stage. Each opponent will be played twice, once at home and once away, and United will be hoping to improve on the respectable points total of nine from last season’s outing.

The fixture schedule currently looks like this:

Tuesday 14 September: Young Boys (A, 17:45 BST)

Wednesday 29 September: Villarreal (H, 20:00 BST)

Wednesday 20 October: Atalanta (H, 20:00 BST)

Tuesday 2 November: Atalanta (A, 20:00 GMT)

Tuesday 23 November: Villarreal (A, 17:45 GMT)

Wednesday 8 December: Young Boys (H, 20:00 GMT)

This means United’s first Champions League game will be a trip to Switzerland to face Young Boys, while in the second game United get the chance to extract revenge on Europa League winners Villarreal at Old Trafford. United’s final game in December is another home match, Solskjaer will hope United have already qualified by this point, but the possibility of a boost from the Old Trafford crowd is there if needed.

Manchester United’s Opponents:

Young Boys

The first opponent for United are relative newcomers to the Champions League, although Young Boys have won the Swiss Super League four times in a row, looking to win their 16th title this year. United have faced Young Boys twice, recording two victories against them in the 2018/2019 campaign. 

Coincidentally, United’s first game in that campaign was also a trip to Stade de Suisse, a game in which Paul Pogba shone by scoring twice. Young Boys will be keen to produce better performances against United this time out, knowing lots of attention will be focused on Solskjaer’s men and subsequently themselves in the opening game of Group F, and an opening game in front of their fans will give them the perfect opportunity to get a decent result. 

United will expect to control both games, looking to use the elite pool of talent at Solskjaer’s disposal to cut through the Young Boys defence. However, the Swiss side do possess some talented forwards amongst their ranks, including Jean-Pierre Nsame, who managed to score 19 goals last season. Overall United will be expected to get all six points from Young Boys, they’re seen as the easiest team in the group, but it’s important that United go into the games with professional focus in order to do this.

Villarreal

United’s first game at Old Trafford in this seasons Champions League will be a rematch against fellow Europa League finalists (and winners) Villarreal. The Spanish club are familiar faces within European competition and perhaps a bit too familiar to United, the clubs have met five times in Europe drawing 0-0 four of those times, the other result of course being Villarreal’s penalty shootout win against United last season in the Europa League final. 

This will provide extra motivation for United as they try to right the wrongs of last season, and a packed Old Trafford coupled with the return of a certain Portuguese forward should ensure United have enough to overcome the Europa League Champions in the first game. Villarreal are no pushovers though, ‘The Yellow Submarine’ (as they’re affectionately known) have a strong squad with a top manager in the form of former Arsenal coach Unai Emery, they are bound to make both games tricky. 

United will know all about dangerous forward Gerard Moreno from the Europa League Final, while defender Pau Torres has a growing reputation as a top defender, even being linked with United for a considerable time. It’s safe to assume that Villarreal will likely provide the biggest test in Group F, another strong candidate to navigate through the group in one of the two top spots.

Atalanta

Despite never meeting competitively, anticipation will be high from both sets of fans in this clash. Atalanta come into the Champions League coming off the back of three consistently good seasons in Serie A, finishing third in each. The club famously scored eight against Valencia over two legs in the Round of 16 in the 2019/2020 season and are renowned for attacking tenacity and high scoring games. 

United will be well informed on the club after scouting Amad Diallo extensively, meaning Solskjaer and his players will know that victories against them is no guarantee. Overall, this could be a tough test, although the pattern of these games against Atalanta is more unpredictable than the other two opponents.

Knockout Phase Teams

This year’s competition is full of quality and experience, and there are at least six teams outside of United that could be seen as strong candidates. Premier League rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool will naturally be considered potential winners considering the depth of quality each team possesses, any potential game against one of them will most definitively be emotionally charged. 

Elsewhere in Europe, Paris Saint-Germain are perhaps seen as the overall favourites with the staggering signing of Lionel Messi, but United know they are capable of beating them- that famous night in 2019 springing to mind. Additionally, German champions Bayern Munich will be keen to reclaim the trophy, while Real Madrid and Barcelona will likely be amongst the latter stages. Other teams to keep an eye on will be La Liga winners Atletico Madrid, while Serie A champions Inter Milan still have a quality team despite losing talismanic striker Romelu Lukaku.

In conclusion, this seasons Champions League is full of promise in both potential quality matchups, and the possibility of United progressing far into the competition. The draw has been relatively kind to United on paper, and United will be buoyed by a fantastic transfer window.

The added bonus of fans back for European nights under the lights at Old Trafford all bodes well for some magical matches once more, and the return of United legend Cristiano Ronaldo adds another element to this year’s attempt. The last time United won this competition was 2008 in Russia, a Ronaldo header instrumental as United beat Chelsea on penalties. 

Strangely enough, this year’s final will also be held in Russia, Ronaldo will be playing for United, and the squad looks stronger than ever. Could it be written in the stars for United to be the kings of Europe once more…

Written by Sam Wilson

Cristiano Ronaldo always asks about Manchester United – still fond of the club

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has stated that Portugal and Juventus winger Cristiano Ronaldo is always interested in the latest developments from the Old Trafford club, his former club. Signed in the summer of 2003 for £12.24 million from Sporting Clube de Portugal, also the former club of Fernandes, 25, Ronaldo has around six years at United before leaving for Real Madrid, a club he continued the success which started in Manchester.

Winning the Ballon d’Or for the first time in 2008 after United won the Premier League and UEFA Champions League double in the 2007/08 season, and going on to win five more Ballon d’Or awards at the Spanish club, also winning four more Champions League titles at the club before leaving for Juventus in the summer of 2018. Ronaldo scored 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances at United before leaving for £80 million in the summer of 2009 and has always remained friendly to the club, even when playing – and scoring, against United.

Fernandes arrived at United during the January transfer window and in 22 appearances for the club so far, has scored 12 goals and eight assists for United, making a total of 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists between both United and Sporting, having 49 goal contributions in 50 matches, which shows the quality of player that United have signed. Fernandes has revealed that his compatriot, Ronaldo, has always remained interested in United when they speak.

Fernandes recently spoke to the official Manchester United website and was asked whether he spoke to Ronaldo. It has been revealed that Patrice Evra spoke to Ronaldo himself to find out about Fernandes before United signed the player in January, seemingly helping United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sign Fernandes as he was the player they needed to add, based on the success he has had at the club so far. Answering the question about whether he spoke to his compatriot, Fernandes said:

“I spoke with him after, not before. I said before – Manchester, for me, was the dream team. I always wanted to play for this team and it doesn’t matter who can talk about it – bad or good, I will come.

“It was my dream to play in the Premier League. I have the choice to come to Manchester United and it was two dreams in one. It was perfect. Of course, I spoke with Cristiano after and he spoke very well about the club. I spoke with him some days ago, again.

“Every time I speak with him, he asks me how Manchester is and if everything is okay. Everyone knows he spent a lot of time in Manchester and he has consideration for the club. He likes the club, I think he won his first Ballon d’Or here, so it’s a club who’ve marked him, for sure.”

It is good to hear that Ronaldo is still very much interested in United, which is the club he was given a change at a much higher level than he was playing in Portugal – Fernandes is experiencing the same thing now. Ronaldo was able to show his skillset and his talent at United and be guided by Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most decorated managers in British football, which clearly helped him reach for the stars, a level he is still at today, despite being ten years senior to Fernandes.

Written by John Walker

Cristiano Ronaldo played a part in Bruno Fernandes signing for Manchester United

Former Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra has confirmed that he sought out the advise of former United winger Cristiano Ronaldo during the time when United were considering a move to sign Sporting Clube de Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes. The 25-year-old has had a good season, both for his former club and United, making 50 appearances, scoring 27 goals and 22 assists – 49 goal contributions. Fernandes has played 22 times for United, scoring 12 goals and eight assists.

Fernandes and Ronaldo play together for Portugal so Evra thought he would get some good insight from the Portuguese winger, getting in contact with him on behalf of United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was enough for United to get the deal done, which should have been completed last summer in my opinion, which could have seen United have a much better 2019/20 season. Evra recently spoke to The Guardian, where he was quoted as saying:

“When they wanted to sign Bruno Fernandes, Ole texted me. I asked for advice from Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Cristiano says: ‘Bruno’s a good guy and very professional.’ I say: ‘Ole, I’ve spoken with Cristiano. Let’s go for it.’

“And Fernandes had a massive impact. Without him I don’t think we would have qualified for the Champions League.”

Fernandes has been a revelation for United since making his debut on the 1 February against Wolverhampton Wanderers, despite that match being a 0-0 draw. The Portuguese magnifico has recently given the warning that he is going to become more lethal next season, which will be something the 25-year-old will be confident with after making the impact that he has done at the club. However, Evra is not so confident about United’s chances of taking on Liverpool for the Premier League title, saying:

“United can’t challenge Liverpool or Manchester City. Not yet. There’s been massive damage but we’re moving in the right direction.

“United have qualified for the Champions League. It’s not a big achievement but it’s massive progress from where we’ve come. I love Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer].”

United require some major investment to bring up the quality of the squad this summer. Whilst the preferred starting XI is strong, United do not have the same kinds of quality across the remainder of the squad with many players struggling to perform to the level the manager wants them to. The likes of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira could leave the club this summer, failing to make the grade for the last two or three seasons now. United will need to rotation throughout the season, so will need the quality to do that without the team struggling on the pitch, like they have done this season, which was there to see towards the end of the restart.

Written by John Walker

Rio Ferdinand speaks about run-in with Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has spoken about the time that he first realised that Cristiano Ronaldo was going to be a superstar. The former United captain has already spoken about former teammate John O’Shea needing an oxygen tank after facing the player against Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly weeks before Sir Alex Ferguson signed the player, who should be considered as one of, if not the best player in the world right now.

Ferdinand, now a pundit for the television, explained how an 18-year-old Ronaldo dazzled him in that pre-season friendly in 2003. The Portuguese winger made such an impact against United that Ferguson and former chief executive of United, David Gill delayed the team bus from leaving the ground for an hour as they tried to do business for Ronaldo after the match. It was a match to christen the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon with United wasting little time to steal an advance over their rivals.

Ronaldo showed his grace when signing for United on the 12 August 2003, replacing David Beckham at the club, who had left for Real Madrid in July for £25 million. Ronaldo donned the famous number seven shirt at United and helped the club win nine major honours including; three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup. The winger made 292 appearances for United, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists in six years before leaving for Real Madrid himself in the summer of 2009.

The you look at the career that Ronaldo has had and is still having, you can see what a truly world class player he is. United signed a player with potential with Ferguson helping to turn the player into a world star. It would have been great for United to keep the player for his entire career, but it was not meant to be. Ronaldo had a dream that he wanted to achieve and I think he has more than done that. Ferdinand, speaking to BT Sport and reported by The Sun, was quoted as saying:

“He started there. We arrived there coming back from America on tour, this was the last leg everyone was knackered, jet-lagged etc and we got asked to play in it late.

“We obviously got there, opened the stadium, we came off that pitch and anyone who didn’t know about Cristiano Ronaldo before we got there definitely did by the time we left.

“When we got to the stadium in the pre-match warm-up, people started, it got around – people saying that kid there, he’s meant to be a superstar. Bearing in mind we’d missed out on signing Ronaldinho as well that summer.

“We were still on the search for a superstar but we didn’t see it coming in the form of a young teenager. But by the time the game finished all the players were saying to the manager ‘When are we going to get him?’

“We were sat on the coach after – ‘Where are we going?’ – delayed an hour, want to get home after a big tour. And the manager and David Gill, the chief executive at the time, were upstairs doing a deal trying to sign him straight away, great recruitment.”

This season, if the Ballon d’Or was still happening, Ronaldo could well have matched Lionel Messi’s sis trophies but he would have had a hard task of winning with the performances of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who might have beaten the Portuguese winger, as Luka Modric did in 2018 with Ronaldo coming third in 2019. United were lucky to see the player in the flesh at a young age which changed the course of history for both United and Ferguson, who reached the promised land for the second time in his career after seeing his side beat Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final in 2008.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW