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CR7, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the chance to ascend into the upper echelons of football

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in action

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CR7, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the chance to ascend into the upper echelons of football

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Siddhant Lazar

08/30/2021

Twenty-two goals scored in a Saturday jam-packed with Premier League football from the early evening kick-off in India to the late-night goodbye in what was a seven-hour spell of spell-binding stuff. And yet, the attention seemed to be on Old Trafford, on Cristiano Ronaldo, and on Manchester United.

Turn the clock back 30 days and Manchester United had no interest in signing Cristiano Ronaldo. Move it back even further, to the start of July, and once again Manchester United were never even interested in signing Cristiano Ronaldo. But move it forward to August 23 and there again, Manchester United were never even linked with a move for Cristiano Ronaldo but Manchester City were.

There were no verified sources of course but there were still links that Pep Guardiola had moved from Harry Kane and decided to chase after a 36-year-old with no future value. That was all but confirmed by Harry Kane’s Twitter post two days later when he said, “I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100% focused on helping the team achieve success”. It meant that just like that all the drama, entertainment, and action had disappeared from a transfer window and Manchester City needed other options.

Suddenly, Manchester United were concerned as fans started burning their old Ronaldo kits, in public no less, much to the chagrin of the other human beings around them. Talks with Manchester City suddenly escalated and by early Thursday, the Cityzens reportedly had personal terms done and dusted with only an agreement for a fee left. It was then, Manchester United arrived on the scene, decided to leap onto the narrative train and produced what can only be called a daring robbery.

From right under City’s nose, they snatched back their former superstar even if he, if reports are to be believed, was offered to the club for most of this summer.

The rest is history and by late Friday night, Cristiano Ronaldo was home. Of course, the move is subject to medical terms and an agreement of personal terms but Manchester United had to make the announcement and show the world that they had won, which they did. It’s the move that has divided a fanbase into two halves; those looking at the move from the morality of it all and those who simply wanted their legend, the man who romanced and roams their dreamland, back. 

Both have their own place in football and while the moral standpoint is the clear winner, that is not what this article is about. Because we all know why Cristiano Ronaldo wanted this move, make no mistake of that as if there is one thing that is clear, this is the perfect, bar none, move for him. He arrives at a club that are desperately chasing after bonafide goal-scorer, with the team all but perfectly set-up to win albeit without a few pieces and a manager looking for hope somewhere.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has bravely undertaken the challenge where three managers failed in the past and has successfully managed to waltz out the other side, comparatively, unscathed and job intact. That alone is a bloody miracle but the fact that the club have walked out of it with a team in this kinda shape is even more impressive and nothing defines that more than this summer. They’ve signed Raphael Varane for a fee that is downright mind boggling alongside arguably the best English talent since Wayne Rooney himself.

Cristiano Ronaldo back at Old Trafford © Twitter

Add that to Bruno Fernandes, budding superstars in Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw’s incredible resurgence and the enigmatic Paul Pogba, and you get a semblance of a team. The pieces are all there, arranged in the wrong order and missing a few but they are all there to create what could be a marvellous trophy-winning side. They may never be Manchester City or even Liverpool or even the Manchester United of old, but there’s enough there to suggest that they’ll be good enough when their time comes.

And yet, as the utterly boring and terrible draw at St Mary’s showed us this team sucks in possession, have a practically invisible midfield and have Anthony Martial as their forward with a teenager still figuring things out as back-up and Edinson Cavani. So for Cristiano Ronaldo, stepping into this team makes all the sense in the world even at 36 and then there’s that goddamn narrative. It removes the attention away from all the, very very very very very, bad bits and instead turns them on the fact that he’s back home.

Much like the Friends reunion where everyone seemed to forget that they wanted a TV show and not whatever that was, although it didn’t seem to matter in the end because everyone still watched whatever that was. That is exactly what is happening right now because, well, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo and yet, once again, that is not what this article is about. Because while ol drama king loves to steal the spot-light, the move for Ronaldo means that Manchester United are about as complete as they might get.

That for the first time in, well, just under a decade, the team have a chance of competing for the title but with Ronaldo, that pressure moves up. The tap turns against them as now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and co have to deal with all the critics saying, something along the lines of, “this is a title winning side”. That is even if they seem to lack a proper defensive midfielder/deep progressor to help facilitate and move the ball from defense to offense, thus plugging a very very large hole in the team.

Then there’s the fact that they can’t seem to beat teams with a low block, something even Liverpool struggled with against Chelsea, or do practically anything when being dominant in possession. And yet, that’s what the narrative will be for most of the two year contract Ronaldo has signed, which for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not good at all. But it offers the Norwegian a chance, something that he may never ever get again which is a guaranteed chance at a legacy right now, right here at Old Trafford.

It’s the club he claims to love, the one he calls home and the one he once played so many games for but with the Solskjaer problem of it all.  And it's added to the fact that he’s still referred to as the “PE teacher” across many different sections of football. A derogatory term any way you look at it but that’s his legacy for those outside the Manchester United persuasion and Ronaldo offers him a chance to change that.

Don’t get it wrong, this season, and potentially the next, is a definite test to see as to whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is up to the challenge of properly coaching an offense and a team. And the excuses have run out this summer especially with the deadwood no longer as prominent and especially with a team this coherent with some semblance of an idea as to what they want to do. Because the spotlight on the Norwegian will, and might, never be as bright as it is going to be but it isn’t all bad because of what it offers him.

As dreams go, this is his best chance of properly cementing himself as a United man, as someone who might one day get his name carved in stone somewhere at Old Trafford. Win the FA Cup and he might just get a statue, win the Carabao Cup and he might get a stand but win either the Champions League or a league title and a bust is calling his name somewhere. Win all three, maybe four, and the options are limitless and the stratosphere is the limit.

Either way, this is the dream, 90th minute and you’ve just got the chance to potentially set up your future and achieve what you’ve been dreaming of for decades. The only question is; will he answer the call? He has done it once before but twenty-something years on, will he do it again?

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