It’s the big question every Red had at the back of their minds during the international break, after it was confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo would make a sensational return to Manchester United, 12 years after departing for Real Madrid.
The GOAT spent six years with United between 2003 and 2009, winning three Premier League titles, a Champions League, two League Cups and a Ballon d’Or while scoring 118 goals in 192 appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson.
But the Portugal international has made a stunning return to the club, signing a two-year deal with the option of an extra year until 2024, with thanks to super-agent Jorge Mendes pulling a few strings in the transfer market.
Mendes sniffed out interest from rivals Man City to accelerate an offer from his former club. It was a complete masterstroke which saw Ferguson play an unforgettable role in bringing Ronaldo back home.
However, a lot has been said since the transfer was announced on deadline day. There’s a group of pundits using whatever platform they work to filter snippets of bizarre opinions on social media, like Ronaldo not being capable of performing in the Premier League anymore, all in the aim of making a name for themselves.
Quickly serve up some coffee and remind those doubting Ronnie that he scored five goals at Euro 2020 for Portugal and finished last season as top scorer in Serie A. It is utterly ridiculous to suggest he’s finished at the top level.
Ok, he’s 36 and everybody knows this is a short-term investment, but it is not one that needs any explanation. Ask any football manager in the world if they’d like to sign Ronaldo. There’s not a single manager out there who would say no.
No show for broadcasters
Since we’re talking about the game against Newcastle United likely being the fixture to mark Ronaldo’s second debut for the club, it’s only right to note how Sky and BT Sport have been left kicking themselves.
With Ronaldo fit to play once he completes isolation and tests negative for COVID-19, the broadcasters in the UK have realized that they won’t be able to show his homecoming live.
Talk about buzz kill!
United’s game will kick-off on Saturday at 3pm, meaning it is covered by the legal blackout of live football being shown on TV.
Newcastle are looking over their shoulders — already in the drop zone – and the sight of Ronaldo is unlikely to help matters for Steve Bruce. They could easily be paying more interest to Championship Betting Odds next season if they don’t turn things around, and United’s new attack poses many outlets to score goals.
Anyhow, with the stadiums full this season, there is no chance of that being changed, which means those sat at home looking to catch the game will be seeking online streams or their preferred IPTV service.
I predict a massive increase in viewers for Match of the Day this week!
Ronaldo to start against Newcastle?
Yeah, I think he will. Ronaldo’s inclusion at this very point doesn’t warrant questioning unless there’s a big reason not to start him.
It’s at Old Trafford and everyone will be buzzing to see him playing for United again.
After the 1-0 win over Wolves, Solskjaer seemed to confirm that Ronaldo will start games: “He is not signing to sit on the bench. He is going to make us a better team.”
Without further ado, I’m going to predict the starting XI against Newcastle, which by no means is an easy ask.
Manchester United starting XI prediction vs Newcastle: David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes; Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho.
United have so many attacking options now they could switch it up weekly, and still cause havoc for opposing defenders. As a result, the bench is a lot stronger and you can expect better game management from the manager on the back of that.
Newcastle will be vulnerable so why not hit them from the start?
Ronaldo won’t be waiting around the get off the mark and I fancy him to not only start against the Magpies, but the score on his debut too. He showed in a World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland that he’s just as hungry for goals as he was when he left United back in 2009, to break the record for most goals scored in men’s international football.
Van de Beek needs game time, and, in hindsight, he would have been no worse than Fred against Wolves. The Brazilian was shockingly bad but I’m not 100% sure he will be left out of this one being one of Solskjaer’s more trusted players and knowing Scott McTominay is a doubt.
Only time will tell but viva Ronaldo!