MICAH RICHARDS: Ronaldo's return to United has changed the title race

MICAH RICHARDS: I briefly allowed myself to dream of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester City… but his return to United is the transfer that has changed everything in this season’s title race

  • For a few hours I allowed myself to dream about Cristiano Ronaldo joining City
  • I was buzzing – this was the move that could be transformative for my old club 
  • But Ronaldo re-signing for United has change everything in the title race
  • With so much firepower, United have had one of the best summer windows
  • Arsenal’s game with Norwich on Saturday is a must win after their awful start 

For a few hours, I allowed myself to dream. I’m a guy that loves a story with a happy ending and I could see one coming with this potential transfer.

Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City? Wow! I was buzzing, absolutely buzzing. It didn’t matter that his association was with the Red side of town, this was the move that could be transformative for my old club and past allegiances didn’t bother me in the slightest.

Carlos Tevez came to the Etihad Stadium and made himself a hero. I first hand saw how quickly he adjusted. Andy Cole and Peter Schmeichel joined City after glorious times at Old Trafford, they were welcomed with open arms and their legacies were not tarnished.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United is a game-changer in this season’s title race

Ronaldo would have been a different level, of course, but the idea of him a blue shirt opened up all manner of possibilities. I wouldn’t say him joining City would have meant the elusive Champions League was sewn up but, my God, what a chance we would have had.

He was going to be the man to take City to the next level. I’ve heard it said Ronaldo isn’t the kind of player Pep Guardiola goes for, because of his superstar status and ego, but I don’t think there would have been an issue.

Sometimes there are opportunities that you cannot turn down and the possibility of getting Ronaldo had to be pursued. He is special, a phenomenal force of nature; any manager in the world would want to work with someone who guarantees goals, goals and more goals.

Imagine this for a minute: put another 20 to 25 into City’s team. He’s the 36-year-old who plays like he’s 28. This wasn’t a gamble – he guarantees taking your side to another level and gives you a huge chance of success.

After playing against Ronaldo, the thought of what he could do to you still makes me shudder

But then the move to City was off and Ronaldo was heading to Old Trafford. This, clearly, is a happy ending and if I remove myself from the cross-city rivalry, you cannot fail to see this is a feel-good transfer. The noise and emotion when he steps out against Newcastle will be off the scale.

Let’s not get caught up in the emotion, however. I was raving about what Ronaldo could have done for City and he can do the same for United. I said on the opening weekend of the season that I felt they were a couple of players short of a title-winning squad but this deal calls for a reassessment.

Look at their firepower: Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes; Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho, the star qualities of Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani. Maybe they could do with another defensive midfielder but I felt City needed another striker last season and they overcame that.

Why can’t United do the same? When you look at their transfer window, signing Sancho and Raphael Varane alongside Ronaldo, it must go down as one of the best recruitment drives, certainly in terms of the names they have recruited.

Ronaldo is expected to make his second United debut at home to Newcastle on Saturday

Don’t kid yourself, either, that Ronaldo has come back to Manchester to wind down time. He simply isn’t like that. I played against him a good few times during his first spell in the Premier League and the thought of what he could do to you still makes me shudder.

Put yourself in my position for a minute. As a full back, I couldn’t show him down the touchline, as he had speed to burn and would run away from me. I couldn’t show him inside, as you were worried he would adjust his feet and slam a shot in from 30 yards.

He was a bit of a skill merchant then, so if you wanted to have some success against him you had to make the first tackle count. If you allowed him to build his confidence early on, he had everything in his locker to ruin you.

Ronaldo has adapted his game to become a goal-scorer supreme who spends much of his time in the box

Then there was his physical strength. You know his condition is remarkable, you have all seen pictures of him. When you collided with Ronaldo, it felt like he was made out of stone. Rio Ferdinand used to tell me he was in the gym constantly, working on his core and his mobility. 

So put all that together – he’s stronger and faster than you. He’s got more skill, he’s smarter than you. The only possible way of containing him was by doubling up but then he would just leave space for someone else to exploit. If United got their momentum up, all you could do was pray.

You could see it in his eyes back then that even though he had success, he wanted more and more and more. He has won everything there is to win many times over but he won’t rest until he has got more medals with United.

Those adoring United fans are going to see a different Ronaldo than his first spell at Old Trafford. He has adapted his game, to become a goal-scorer supreme who spends much of his time in the box – but the impact I expect him to have means they are fully entitled to dream.

This is now a genuine four-way title race with all the big teams having all their big boys. Whoever comes out on top in May will be the most deserving winners – and United are firmly in the mix. This is the transfer that has changed everything. 

The term ‘must win’ is something you often hear towards the end of the season but, in week four, it applies to Arsenal’s game against Norwich.

They should have a number of their key players back for this fixture and the only possible outcome that will be acceptable for Mikel Arteta is three points. Arsenal have got to find a way to break the cycle of negativity that is spinning around them.

I’ve seen Arteta at work and, believe me, he is an excellent coach. He’s got bright ideas, he knows football inside out and the work he did in his first eight months at the club prompted me to write a column early last season about how nobody was laughing at Arsenal anymore.

Arsenal’s game against Norwich on Saturday is already a must win for manager Mikel Arteta

I stand by my view that Arteta can make things work. Arsenal’s failing has been not getting rid of the players who have not been contributing. Too many people have accepted mediocre results and that has got to change – starting against Norwich.

If we are honest, nobody expected them to beat Manchester City and Chelsea. It was the opening night defeat to Brentford that has left them in a dreadful position so early on. They need to transform the situation and the only option on Saturday is to get three points and some goals.

MICAH’S MAN OF THE WEEK

During a conversation with Joe Hart a couple of weeks ago, he started talking to me about Harry Kane.

He went into great detail about Kane’s finishing, how it was impossible as a goalkeeper to read his body language when he was going to shoot. To sum it up, Joe called him ‘perfect’.

I thought about that on Wednesday when Kane moved on to 41 England goals with his strike in Poland. The quality of that shot, the dip and the swerve and the power, was of the highest calibre and showed him to be at the top of his game.

Whatever was right or wrong about the summer and his failure to get a move to Manchester City, it is clear there is no hangover. He’s set for another outstanding season.

The quality of Harry Kane’s goal in Poland, with dip, swerve and power, was of the highest class




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