Finally, the day is nigh. Cristiano Ronaldo is poised to make his second Manchester United debut against Newcastle today, 12 years after he departed the club for Real Madrid. And it really is a fascinating day ahead, with the Red Devils offering him a chance to show he’s the best of all time amid his longstanding rivalry with Lionel Messi.
With days of the transfer window remaining, it looked as though Ronaldo was going to do the unthinkable.
Manchester City were on the lookout for a new forward and, with Harry Kane staying at Tottenham, then set their sights on the 36-year-old.
Except then, in a dramatic late twist, United got involved. Pep Guardiola dropped his interest and that freed up the Red Devils to bring their former, and now current, No 7 back for a stunning swansong.
Ronaldo only started training with his new team-mates this week but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking on Friday, confirmed he’ll be involved today.
“He has been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he has played for the national team,” he said.
“He has had a good week with us here and he will definitely be on the pitch at some point that is for sure.”
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And now, it’s time for Ronaldo to take the Premier League by storm. Just like he did during his first stint at the club.
United are giving the Portugal international a chance to show he’s the best. If he wins in England, as he did before and has done throughout his career, it will be the biggest achievement of the lot.
This is the toughest Premier League there’s ever been, without a doubt.
During Ronaldo’s first spell at the club, it was only Arsenal and Chelsea who posed a threat when it came to winning the Premier League title.
Even by the time Manchester City were taken over, the Citizens were nowhere near the top as the superstar propelled United to silverware galore.
Yet, now, things are different.
Arsenal are no longer a Premier League superpower but Chelsea are. With Romelu Lukaku, and Thomas Tuchel as their manager, they’re now better than ever.
City have evolved into a side amongst the best these shores have ever been, while Liverpool are significantly improved from the days of Rafa Benitez.
Tottenham and Leicester are tricky, too. Both are difficult to beat and many are tipping them for a positive campaign.
So if Ronaldo produces the goods in England, at the age of 36, it really will boost his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or again and being recognised as the best player on the planet.
Then, if he takes United to Champions League glory, that’s another boost when it comes to the mantle he wishes to own outright.
His rivalry with Messi has spanned years and, of course, the Argentina international isn’t done yet.
But it’s worth noting that both players have taken on two very different challenges in the twilight years of their respective careers.
If Messi had won the Champions League or La Liga with this crisis-hit Barcelona side, that would have been a truly magnificent achievement.
But now at Paris Saint-Germain, he’s now in a situation that if he fails to fire them to the European title they crave the most then he’ll be remembered as a flop.
PSG are, after all, expected to cruise to Ligue 1 glory every year. The fact they didn’t, last year, suggests all wasn’t well at the Parc des Princes.
Messi is walking into a team that already win the majority of the time.
But Ronaldo has decided to take on the challenge of re-awakening a sleeping giant, something certainly easier said than done.
This United team have gone four years without a trophy and counting. In the toughest league in the world, it would be one of Ronaldo’s biggest achievements of all.
Messi is in France with PSG.
Ronaldo, though, has now been given the foundations to prove he’s ready to top his long-term rival’s achievements.
And, what’s more, he already appears to be planning a longer stay at Old Trafford.
“This is why I am here. I am not here for a vacation,” he told MUTV.
“As I told you, before was good, winning important things and I wore the shirt before many years ago, but I am here to win again.
“I am capable, me and my team-mates. I am ready to go, I am ready to go. It is a good chance for me, for the supporters, for the club, to get one step ahead.
“I am ready and I think I will be a huge thing in the next three or four years.”