By Charles Lim
Christiano Ronaldo’s historic return to Old Trafford turned out to be a memorable afternoon as he scored not one, but two goals as Manchester United thrashed Newcastle 4-1 in an English Football League (EPL) encounter that catapulted his team to the top of the EPL table.
Over an hour after the final whistle, thousands of United fans were still in the stadium demanding to honor the Portuguese megastar with a standing ovation as he appeared to do a tv interview. Such is the devotion and admiration this typical English tribo has for a player who left them for Real Madrid in 2009.
“My return to Old Trafford was just a brief reminder of why this stadium is known as the Theater of Dreams. For me, it has always been a magical place where you can achieve everything you set your mind to,” posted the 36 year old star on his instagram.
Ronaldo’s transfer back to United from Juventus is a juggernaut to club and fans, but what about his fellow team mates?
Will he dislodge many who are all geared up to perform well and contribute to a successful season? Will he cut short the dream of other strikers who had hoped to be constantly on the starting eleven. Already we hear of who will be the first choice for penalty kicks? Will Ronaldo now replace Bruno Fernandez? Will mainstays like Jess Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford move away at first window that comes along, fearing intimidation and lesser roles to play in United? Will newly signed Jadon Sancho feel he made the wrong move this summer to move from Borrusia Dortmund?
Time will tell.
United’s head coach and boss, Ole Gunner Solskjaer was a teammate of Ronaldo in his his debut at Old Trafford in the 2003-4 season. Other notable teammates who have all retired from playing includes Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Almost 20 years ago under the iconic manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Gee, that seems like a long time ago, a generation perhaps.
Ronaldo has scored more than 800 goals so far for club and country; out of this, 118 was from his first stint with United. Undoubtedly, he and Messi ruled the football world in Europe in the decades that just passed, as goal scoring machines. Messi sadly transferred from Barcelona to Paris St Germain this summer when Barcelona declared they cannot afford him any longer.
On the other hand, the British media hype, club dynamism and attractiveness of United will instill great interest for Ronaldo in the current league and in future seasons. His second debuting at Old Trafford will solidify his status as one of the all time greats alongside Pele and Maradona.
As he settles down – with club and family – in England, cynics will scrutinize his attitude towards players and manager, commitment to the club and hints on how his playing career will end, either with United or beyond. In Portugal, he is what Pele is to Brazil, Messi is to Argentina and Pacquiao is to the Philippines. (Oooops! You know what I mean).
Being strong-willed and wanting to prove his worth to United is one thing. Performing it with grace, affection and respect for others is another. Ronaldo has to bend (not like Beckham; pardon the pun) but in his own style and merit, to inspire his team mates, enjoy mutual respect for his manager and all the other 19 teams of the EPL and, continue the love affair with his fans.
“He does what he does,” said Solskjaer. “He lifts everyone; he gets everyone so focused around the place. He puts demands on himself which then puts demands on his team mates and demands on us and that’s why he’s done so much in his career, he’s been so disciplined. He’s evolved, he’s developed as a player, he’s a different type of player to when he left but he is still a ruthless and critical goal scorer, he smells the big moments and senses when there are goals.”
As a true red United fan, I do not mind staying up to 2am on weekends until May of 2022 to see you guys lift the trophies of the EPL and FA Cup. You do your share; I will do mine.
What are the teams to watch in the EPL this season? Champions Manchester City crashed on opening day to Tottenham Hotspurs. After four games, no team has a 100% clean record but watch out for Chelsea, City and Liverpool. The gap and dominance City and Liverpool enjoyed in previous seasons will never be apparent this season.
As for this week, Man U sits on top of the table, but only just.