Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United will be seen as a fairy-tale conclusion to a magnificent career, played out at ‘The Theatre Of Dreams’ he graced for so long.
The 36-year-old superstar has always held a special place in the hearts of everyone at Old Trafford after winning the Champions League, three Premier Leagues, the FA Cup and two League Cups in a glittering six-year stay under his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson before an £80m move to Real Madrid in 2009.
The current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rightly celebrate Ronaldo’s landmark return – but it is also a double-edged sword for the Norwegian, who is still in search of his first trophy and cannot afford to wait much longer for success given more vast transfer outlay this summer.
Ronaldo will be greeted as the returning hero, the homecoming Old Trafford has always longed for but never seriously thought would materialise, and it will be a special occasion when he walks out once more as a Manchester United player.
It was a moment of high emotion when he came back with Real Madrid in a Champions League last-16 second-leg tie in March 2013, Ronaldo tapping his heart in appreciation as he received a thunderous, prolonged standing ovation when he was introduced before kick-off.
He responded in the only way he knew, scoring the winner but celebrating in subdued fashion as Ferguson’s last attempt to add another Champions League to his CV was snuffed out. Sentiment is not in his DNA. Success is.
Now he is at Old Trafford again, this time in the red of Manchester United once more, Solskjaer will hope he brings that priceless commodity back with him.
Ferguson’s father-son relationship with Ronaldo played a key role in diverting him away from the unthinkable outcome of signing for Manchester City, a move that would have threatened even his iconic status among United fans, in favour of this sensational comeback after 12 years away at Real and then Juventus.
It is a remarkable strike in the markets by United, one that will be paraded as a coup over arch-rivals and Premier League champions City.
The Glazers, owners still despised by large sections of United’s support, will say it is another signal that they are steadfast in their financial backing for Solskjaer, no matter what their critics think of them.
United may be in desperate need of another quality midfield player but how could they seriously ignore the chance to re-sign someone who is a gold-plated United legend, the man won the first of his five Ballons d’Or after inspiring United’s Champions League win in 2008?