Fans were not only delighted at the return to Old Trafford of one of the greatest players in the history of the game, but they were also ecstatic that they had prevented Ronaldo, a United icon, from joining rivals Manchester City.
Fast forward less than 14 months and it appears a hollow success.
Ronaldo spent the duration of last weekend’s Manchester derby sitting on the bench with just one goal – a penalty in the Europa League against FC Sheriff – to his name for the season. Meanwhile, the blue half of Manchester danced in celebration as Erling Haaland, the man who is undoubtedly the greatest centre forward in world football at present, netted a hat-trick in a 6-3 win.
Haaland, of course, has been scoring at a ridiculous rate for Pep Guardiola’s side. Indeed, if he maintains this level until the end of the season, he is on course to score 101 goals in the campaign. It is surely impossible but given that he has already netted 19 times in 12 games, few would be particularly confident in betting against the possibility.
Remember, he is not fully assimilated into Man City’s system and style yet and is already hitting numbers worthy of Ronaldo at his absolute peak.
Man Utd re-signing Ronaldo was a mistake
How this could have all been so different if Man Utd had not jealously moved to sign the Portugal international a year ago. Ronaldo was hours away from completing his move to City, with a desperate phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson famously influential in changing his mind.
Sure, it would have been a painful period as Ronaldo banged in the goals that would have led Guardiola’s side to the Premier League title, as he surely would have, but it would have made them a far less attractive prospect for Haaland. United’s pain would have been a short, sharp problem given what is to come.
Haaland is just 22, has room to develop and refine his game, and yet is already posting numbers for the ages.
His father may have indicated that he will only be with City for four or five years before moving on – potentially to Real Madrid – but he is likely to be the world’s most potent scorer for the duration of that time.
Ronaldo, had he joined, would have led Man City to maintain their success over a short period; Haaland has ensured they have stepped up a level for years to come.