Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick thinks Cristiano Ronaldo can be even better back at Old Trafford than he was in his three years at Juventus.
It’s fair to say the Portugal international will get a heroes’ welcome if he gets on the pitch for a second Man Utd debut against Newcastle this weekend, but he wasn’t entirely convincing by his own high standards in his spell in Serie A.
Ronaldo was an absolute goal machine for Real Madrid for nine years, and won four Champions League titles in his time at the Bernabeu, though he couldn’t quite repeat that success at Juventus.
Juve will surely have signed Ronaldo to help them go further in Europe, but they massively under-achieved in the competition, and that might be a bit of a question-mark about Ronaldo as he returns to United.
Still, Chadwick has spoken exclusively to CaughtOffside about why he thinks Ronaldo should fare better now that he’s back with the Red Devils.
“I think it’s about him being comfortable, he’s been at Manchester United before and knows the club inside-out,” Chadwick said. “At Juventus it was a completely different move for him, coming away from Spain. He’s coming back to somewhere he’s comfortable.
“Having said that, he can’t be relied on to win them the Champions League on his own.
“I think the difference between United and Juventus, I expect him to be more free at United. But he certainly wasn’t a failure at Juventus, even if he didn’t win the trophies he’d have liked to there.
“I think he’ll go straight into the team. He’ll be hungry to get going. It’s going to be a great occasion this weekend.”
Could United become overly reliant on Ronaldo?
Chadwick also discussed Ronaldo’s presence and the effect it might have on his team-mates, some of whom may well be a bit star-struck by seeing such a big name coming in.
Still, the former United ace does not expect the team to become overly reliant on simply looking to the 36-year-old to provide the magic for them all the time.
“The players will be delighted he’s come in. I don’t think they’ll be relying on him as such,” Chadwick said.
“A club of United’s stature, with players like Bruno Fernandes, who’s done great things … I think it raises the standard, rather than being overly reliant on him. I think everyone’s buzzing and I think he’ll do great things.
“I can’t really remember a time at Manchester United where we’ve relied on one player. When I was there we had such a fantastic team, there were so many world class players that if someone had an off-day someone else would rise to the occasion.
“You look at Ronaldo and Messi over the years, with the incredible stats they’ve achieved, it can look like the clubs are relying on them but I think where Ronaldo is now in his career he’s not going to win games on his own.
“If United give him chances he’ll score goals and he’ll make a huge difference to that squad because of the personality that he is and the winner he’s been throughout his career.”
How will Ronaldo affect Greenwood?
One player who might have cause for concern about Ronaldo’s arrival is youngster Mason Greenwood, who has started the season in fine form but who might now struggle to get into the starting XI as regularly.
While there’s something to be said from a young player like Greenwood being able to learn from Ronaldo, Chadwick thinks it’s still more important to be playing regular football, and he expects the talented teenager can continue to do so, even if it means changing positions.
“I think it’s better to play,” Chadwick said. “If Mason Greenwood plays well and scores goals, I’m sure there will be a place in the team for him.
“Obviously it’s fantastic for all the players at the club to learn from a world class player like Ronaldo, but at the end of the day for his personal development it’s about him playing games. He’s still a young lad, but he’s played a lot of football and now it’s about sustaining that and turning into the world class player he’s got the potential to become.
“I’m sure he’ll be delighted Ronaldo is there, but he’ll want to play.
“Greenwood’s had a fantastic start to the season, but could shift over to the right-hand side and allow Ronaldo to play as a number 9.”
Chadwick also praised United for their strong connections helping them out in the transfer market this summer, though he added that this isn’t really anything new, even if we hear more about it now as it’s amplified on social media.
“I think it’s always happened in football,” he said. “Obviously throughout your career you build relationships with different players, from different clubs or from your national teams. If managers are interested in a player they might have a word and say “give them a call, tell them about the club”, so I don’t think it’s anything new.
“I think United have certainly made the most of that with Pogba speaking to Varane and Fernandes speaking to Ronaldo. It’s certainly worked out well for United so far.”