IN six glorious years at Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo turned Manchester United into the team that ruled Europe.
Yet for all the nine trophies, the two titles, the Champions League and a standing as the game’s biggest star, the Portuguese still felt there was unfinished business.
Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to Man Utd to win more trophies, not for sentimental reasonsCredit: PA:Press Association
It’s why he never hid from the fact that one day, as fanciful and unlikely as it may have seemed, he could return.
It’s why anyone who believes his dramatic second coming is a decision based entirely on sentiment is so very, very wrong.
And why, as soon as United made it clear they were holding the door open for him, no one else in the hunt stood a chance.
For Ronaldo has sampled life at the summit once at Old Trafford — now he wants to be the man who shoots them back there.
Given his track record, few would back against him. And if he manages it, he knows it will ultimately leave a legacy that will probably never be equalled.
Some of the greatest names have pulled on the famous red shirt. From Duncan Edwards and the Busby Babes to George Best, Bobby Charlton and the 1968 European kings.
In the modern era, the likes of Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, not to mention legends such as Bryan Robson. Every one of them was a superstar of their era.
But for someone to go back and do it for a second time? Manage that and Ronaldo really will be in a league of his own.
And when CR7 sets his mind on something, very rarely is he wide of the mark. His footballing CV tells you that.
Ronaldo isn’t going back to his spiritual home because of the tug on his heartstrings. He isn’t going back for a trip down memory lane, to relive old glories.
He is heading back to Manchester because he wants to write a new chapter in United’s and his own history.
Of course there are those who reckon the transfer fee — an initial £12.85million plus £6.85m in add-ons — is too much for a man in his footballing dotage.
But although, at 36, Ronaldo isn’t going to get any better, he is such a footballing freak that the date on his birth certificate is almost irrelevant.
You will not find a fitter man in the game
Even now you will not find a fitter man in the game. Certainly no player will train harder or do more to ensure their body — and mind — remain in the best possible condition.
Sources close to Ronaldo insist he is probably more single-minded and driven now than he has ever been.
Whatever anyone may claim, Manchester City WERE keen to sign him — and they weren’t the only ones either. Yet as soon as United said they wanted him, no one else had an earthly.
Ronaldo may not have been on the payroll for 12 years but he has constantly kept tabs on all things Old Trafford.
He remains pals with many from the old days and Sir Alex Ferguson — who made a call to tell him how much he was wanted — will forever be his footballing father.
So Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t need to sell his former team-mate any tales of how things were going. Ronaldo already knew.
And he told the United boss he was equally convinced a new era of success was just around the corner . . . and he was keen to be part of it.
Of course, he will be crucial in shaping the futures of the young stars such as Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho.
But most important is what he will bring to the team himself — goals, excitement and glory.
When Cantona arrived in 1992, it was as the final piece in a jigsaw that Fergie reckoned could go the extra step. Now Ronaldo comes back with Solskjaer hoping the same.
Whether they do is still open to debate. But one thing is for certain — a United ticket will be the hottest in town this season.
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