Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick has high expectations for the season ahead after the sensational return of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.
The Red Devils re-signed this club legend from Juventus late on in the transfer window, and even at the age of 36, he remains an elite goal-scorer who can surely fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to a new level.
Ronaldo joins alongside other big names in Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, and Chadwick is now clear that he thinks United need to be bringing home silverware, and that this could even be the year that they get their hands on a long-awaited Premier League title.
“It was absolutely incredible really. He’s a Manchester United legend, one of the best players of all time,” Chadwick told CaughtOffside.
“It looked like he was going to go to Man City and then things just changed at the last minute. It makes you wonder if it was set up to work out that way, the way it progressed.
“To see him back in a red shirt is just huge, he’s a legend at the club and it makes you think this could be the year that the Premier League trophy comes back to Old Trafford.
“It’s an incredible piece of business that will have the fans buzzing even more than they already were with two great signings in Varane and Sancho. Having Ronaldo back is massive news, he’s obviously not the same player he was a few years ago but he’ll add vast experience – he’s won something at every club he’s been at and now the challenge is for United to finish with some silverware.”
Chadwick also paid tribute to former Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson for his role in the transfer, saying it’s clear that he and Ronaldo have a special bond that perhaps clinched the deal.
“It’s wonderful to see Ferguson involved,” Chadwick said. “Manchester United has an incredible culture and everyone wants the best for the club. Ferguson is obviously still a huge part of things. I’m sure when he spoke to Ronaldo, Ronaldo would’ve listened to what he had to say.
“Throughout his career, like when he won the Euros with Portugal, we’ve seen the affection in his eyes when he saw the manager again. It would be interesting to know the full story, if he actually considered becoming a City player and how close he was. It would be interesting to know the true story in years to come, but I’m not surprised a call with Ferguson got a return to United over the line.”
Chadwick believes United have plenty of quality attacking options now, but expects Ronaldo to feature as more of a number 9 now than he did in his first spell at the club, when he started out as a winger before effectively having a bit of a free role across the front line, albeit with more of a focus on getting into the box than he had at first.
The Portugal international’s game has evolved in recent years, and it makes sense that, as an ageing player, he perhaps doesn’t do as much running as he did, and instead puts his good instincts in the box to use by mainly staying in the penalty area and getting on the end of passes and crosses.
“Cristiano’s played as number 9 for a few years now. He knows the game so well, gets into positions to score goals,” Chadwick said. “He gives United incredible options with him and Cavani capable of playing at centre-forward. There’s Mason Greenwood as well, but now he’s got the option to come in off that right-hand side. Then there’s Sancho and Martial on the left, it really gives Ole options this season.
“It’s going to be incredibly exciting to see Ronaldo back in the Premier League but I can’t see him playing out wide anymore. His debut will be one to watch, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get off the mark early and really get the crowd buzzing.”
When asked if United had perhaps put big-name signings over proper long-term planning and squad building again, as they’ve been criticised for a few times in recent years, Chadwick insisted the Ronaldo move was good business.
The former Red Devils ace feels there’s no way the club could have let Ronaldo move to City instead, and that the presence of such a legendary figure should have a positive effect on the youngsters in the dressing room.
“I think it’s very unfair to criticise United,” Chadwick said. “I think with the traditions of the club, they couldn’t have let him go to City. There would have been huge criticism.
“When a club legend becomes available, and one of the greatest players to play the game, it’s a great piece of business. If United get one or two seasons out of him, it’ll be incredible.
“And you can see on social media how delighted the younger players are that he’s signed. What an opportunity it is to learn from one of the very best and have a real winner in the changing room. At times United have lacked those big characters, but Ronaldo is one of the greatest characters in the game so I think it’s great business.”
He added: “For Ronaldo this is the perfect move, he really came of age at Manchester United and then went on to become one of the very best at Real Madrid. Now he’s back at his spiritual home, it’s a bit of a fairytale.”