Column: Ronaldo deal sees Man U outflank City, mollify fans

Aug 27, 2021, 1:28 AM | Updated: 1:38 pm

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — As the transfer talk heated up, the prospect of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo in a Manchester City jersey increasingly dismayed greats from the red half of town — particularly Rio Ferdinand.

How could the player he won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with at Manchester United contemplate returning to the Premier League with their greatest rival?

“I rang him straight away,” Ferdinand said. “What’s going on? Tell me you’re lying.”

By that point Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, had already told Juventus on Thursday the five-time world player of the year wanted out of the final season of his contract.

His destination, publicly at least, and not disputed by City, looked like being the blue half of Manchester.

Signing one of the greatest players of all time — especially a United legend — would have been the perfect way for City to end a difficult week. Its long-running pursuit of Harry Kane had spectacularly collapsed when it realized Tottenham wouldn’t sell the striker who was the Premier League’s top scorer last season for even 100 million pounds ($138 million).

The back pages of Friday’s newspapers teased the sensational possibility of the 36-year-old Ronaldo filling the void up front for Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions. But by Friday lunchtime, Guardiola publicly accepted: “Right now it looks far, far, away.”

A deal was far away. But Ronaldo soon won’t be physically far away from City after United acted swiftly to pull off the transfer coup.

Once Ronaldo’s availability emerged — which hadn’t seemed an option at the start of the week — United’s hierarchy made clear to Mendes it wanted to bring the Portuguese back to Old Trafford, 12 years after he was sold to Real Madrid.

The emotional pull with the club that signed him at age 18 in 2003 — and provided the platform for him to become a soccer superstar — proved stronger than playing for a City side that has usurped United to become England’s dominant force.

Ronaldo listened to the pleas of Ferdinand and surely other figures linked to United. United struck a deal on Friday afternoon to pay Juventus 15 million euros (around $18 million), with 8 million euros ($9 million) in add-ons, with only personal terms to be resolved along with contractual and visa formalities.

“When there is an opportunity for him to come and continue his legacy, continue his history with this football club,” Ferdinand posted in an online video, “if Man United had let that slip through their fingers and he had gone across the city to the other side, you would have had to have had security 24/7, around the clock at the stadium, let alone the houses of some of the people involved.”

The former United defender wasn’t over-exaggerating or being alarmist.

Last year, furious fans attacked the house of United vice chairman Ed Woodward with smoke bombs and fireworks. And only four months ago, supporters stormed into the stadium and onto the field, and clashed with security outside Old Trafford, leading to the unprecedented postponement of a Premier League match due to protests.

The dissent has been largely dampened, even before the fan-pleasing re-signing of Ronaldo.

While he is clearly more of a short-term solution to trying to win the Premier League for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the summer transfer window had already seen other significant investment and additions.

A couple of months before it swooped to stop Ronaldo joining its neighbor, United struck a deal with Borussia Dortmund worth 85 million euros ($100 million) to bring 21-year-old former City winger Jadon Sancho back to Manchester.

Then the Glazers spent another 34 million pounds on signing center back Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. And where Old Trafford had been the scene of protests in April and May, it became a cauldron of raucous delight when the 28-year-old France World Cup winner was presented to the crowd before kickoff at the season opener.

How fickle some fans can be. All it took was some more spending on the squad, and initial pledges by the Glazers to engage more after the debacle of the failed Super League breakaway in April, for United fans to be won back over after finishing runners-up to City last season.

Of course, it will still require the first trophy since the 2017 Europa League and a return to the era when titles were expected every season — in their multiples — for supporters to be truly happy.

Ronaldo is the connection with the past who can remind this new generation of United players of a time — before City benefited from the influx of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth in 2008 — when the Red Devils ruled English football.

The Premier League can also celebrate Ronaldo opting to come to England, enticed by a reunion with United — and former teammate-turned-manager Ole Gunnar Solsksjaer — rather than playing for the first time in the same team as Lionel Messi at Qatar-funded Paris Saint-Germain.

“A little bit nostalgic and nostalgia doesn’t always work in football,” said Gary Neville, another of Ronaldo’s former United teammates, who is now a Sky TV pundit. “The idea of him going to City was torture for United fans.”


More AP soccer: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Watkins, Hayek power Villanova to 45-20 romp over Maine

Connor Watkins threw four touchdown passes to Jaaron Hayek and Villanova breezed to a 45-20 victory over Maine on Saturday. Villanova (3-2, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association), ranked 14th in the FCS coaches poll, grabbed a 10-0 lead on Matthew Mercurio’s 39-yard field goal and Jalen Jackson’s 5-yard touchdown run. Jay Fagnano connected with Montigo Moss […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

North Dakota scores 24 straight, tops Missouri State 48-21

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Tommy Schuster threw two touchdown passes to Garett Maag, Quincy Vaughn ran for two scores and North Dakota raced past Missouri State 48-31 on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks (3-2, 2-1 Missouri Valley Conference) trailed 21-10 after the Bears scored with 2:36 left in the first half, but a 38-yard touchdown […]
14 hours ago
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Drew Smyly delivers against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inni...
Associated Press

Seiya Suzuki homers as Chicago Cubs top Cincinnati Reds 2-1

CHICAGO (AP) — Seiya Suzuki hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 on Saturday for their sixth straight win. Suzuki’s two-out drive to left-center against Derek Law (2-3) was Chicago’s first hit since the fourth and the last of three on the day. But […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Davidson rushes for 498 yards in 31-0 victory over Butler

DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) — Dylan Sparks carried it 16 times for a career-high 180 yards and Davidson rushed for 498 yards in a 31-0 victory over Butler on Saturday. It was Davidson’s first shutout since 2019. Coy Williams added 19 rushes for 109 yards for Davidson (4-1, 2-0 Pioneer), which has won four straight. Aaron […]
14 hours ago
Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber looks towards the dugout after he tripled during the first in...
Associated Press

Kyle Gibson rocked; Phils drop 6th of 7 in 13-4 loss to Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) — The bid by interim manager Rob Thomson and the Philadelphia Phillies to end the club’s 11-year playoff drought was hurt by a 13-4 loss to the lowly Washington Nationals in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Saturday as starter Kyle Gibson was tagged once again. The Game 1 loss for the fading […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

FCS passing leader DeMorat throws for 4 TDs in Fordham’s win

NEW YORK (AP) — Tim DeMorat, the FCS passing leader, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to lead Fordham to a 59-38 victory over Georgetown on Saturday. DeMorat came in as the leader in touchdowns (22) and yards (1,805) and added to those totals with his four scoring tosses and 348 yards after […]
14 hours ago
Column: Ronaldo deal sees Man U outflank City, mollify fans