Ronaldo 'happy to be back home' at Man Utd
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Manchester United, on deadline day, confirmed the Hollywood return of Cristiano Ronaldo. And it’s certainly ironic because, for years, they’ve struggled to replace the Portugal international. So Express Sport will now take a look at those who they brought in with the hope they’d replace the Portugal international, only to see fail instead.
United announced Ronaldo’s departure in May 2009, with the forward joining Real Madrid.
And, in the aftermath, they signed Antonio Valencia as a direct replacement.
The Ecuador international was a solid figure for the Red Devils but the truth is that, after a serious knee injury against Rangers in 2010, he was never the same.
Valencia was a good asset for United, but never came remotely close to being Ronaldo’s heir.
And it spoke volumes that, by the end of his Old Trafford career, he was a right-back – while Ronaldo was still plundering home goals galore for Juventus in Italy.
The same summer as Ronaldo left and Valencia joined, Michael Owen also touched down.
And they gave the England international the No 7 shirt in the hope he’d produce fine goal totals just like its previous occupant.
Except that didn’t happen.
Owen had some good days for United, such as scoring a dramatic late winner against Manchester City and a hat-trick in the Champions League against Wolfsburg.
But Owen never got near Ronaldo’s goal tally in both of his seasons at Old Trafford before joining Stoke on a free transfer.
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Towards the end of his reign, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to sign Wilfried Zaha.
He’d seen the player impress for Crystal Palace and thought the forward would be the ideal gift to his successor, David Moyes.
Yet the Scot got this one wrong.
A young Zaha was compared to Ronaldo because of his tricks and flicks, and mature end product for his age.
But after just four appearances for United he was sold by Louis van Gaal, who never took to him.
Angel Di Maria
United have struggled on the right wing for years, ever since Ronaldo upped and left.
And Angel Di Maria was another player they thought would be able to replicate the achievements of the Portugal international.
However, they were mistaken.
Di Maria’s early performances in Manchester sparked Ronaldo comparisons but, after a break-in at his family home, his form waned.
And he was eventually sold to Paris Saint-Germain after just a year in English football, where they’ve been ever since.
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United, after seeing Di Maria fail, went back to looking at players with the potential to be the next Ronaldo.
And that’s when they settled on Memphis Depay.
In 2015, the Netherlands international joined from PSV Eindhoven – snubbing moves to Liverpool and PSG in the process.
Like Di Maria, his time with the club started well with the Dutchman scoring a magnificent brace against Club Brugge in a Champions League qualifier.
But after just 18 months in England, he was sold. Jose Mourinho flogged the forward to Lyon, where he rebuilt his career before joining Barcelona this summer.
When United signed Alexis Sanchez, they legitimately believed they were onto a winner.
After all, the Chile international had dazzled at Arsenal – sometimes single-handedly carrying the club.
But when Sanchez signed, and was given Ronaldo’s old No 7 shirt, it soon became apparent he wouldn’t last the course.
Indeed, after 18 months, he was loaned to Inter Milan before moving to the San Siro on a permanent basis.
And that then saw United go back to the drawing board when it comes to acquiring a player of Ronaldo’s calibre and quality…
This summer, United again made a significant signing to solve their problems on the right wing – an area they’ve never been the same in since Ronaldo’s exit.
So after four years of tracking, they were able to get a deal for Jadon Sancho over the line.
How he gets on remains to be seen.
But now he’ll get to play for Ronaldo, instead of being in his shadow and facing the prospect of doing what the 36-year-old often did.
The pressure has been eased. But Sancho will have to start delivering, fast, to show the club were right to spend so long chasing his signature.
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