Cristiano Ronaldo may well be reaching the twilight years of his illustrious career, but there can be no denying the Portuguese superstar still has something to offer.
More specifically, something to offer Manchester United. With each passing day, the signs are that the 37-year-old will remain at Old Trafford next campaign, despite seeing his side suffer a season of struggle and the prospect of not playing Champions League football for the first time in almost two decades.
Given the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s remarkable love affair with Europe’s elite club competition, one could be forgiven for thinking he may place individual success in the Champions League over his commitment to help United’s cause, but all signs suggest that won’t be the case. It seems the striker’s sentimentality towards United supersedes that of his insatiable appetite for success on the European stage.
Ronaldo recently expressed his “excitement” at the prospect of Erik ten Hag’s Old Trafford arrival and it seems the feelings are mutual. Speaking to De Telegraaf regarding his plans for the club’s iconic No.7, the Dutchman declared: “I want to keep Cristiano at Man United, of course.
“He has been very important for this club. Ronaldo is a giant, because of everything he has shown so far and because of how ambitious he is.”
In a season fraught with humiliating defeats and incessant talk of a broken dressing room, Ronaldo has struck 24 times in 39 appearances to further reaffirm his status as one of the greatest ever to grace the game. And though his unparalleled desire to succeed is often perceived as arrogance, and though he is advancing in years, Ten Hag must use Ronaldo’s “giant” status to inspire his new side back towards the top.
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At 37 years of age, perhaps it would be remiss to build a team around the legendary future, but that isn’t to say his influence cannot be exploited. United have often been accused of lacking leaders, but who better to lead by example than the “ambitious” Ronaldo, the man for the big occasion?
As Ten Hag himself admits, “there’s a lot of work to be done” at United, and this summer should see a seismic changes take place at the club. Some of the old guard and some of the rotten apples are set to depart, while the Dutchman looks set to be entrusted with funds to oversee a rebuild.
If his success at Ajax is anything to go by, the 52-year-old will no doubt be keen to assemble a squad packed with exciting youngsters and players who possess attacking intent. On paper, it’s certainly a style and a philosophy which ties in with the United way.
While Ten Hag is finding his feet, he could very will use an experience head who has been there and done it all throughout his career – and knows how to win with United. Many on the outside will assume Ronaldo doesn’t fit in with Ten Hag’s approach, but if anything, the fact he is different from the rest – unique, some might say – should be viewed as an advantage.
Love him or loathe him, Ronaldo has carved out the most astonishing career and few can refute his “giant” status within the game. As Ten Hag attempts to lay down the foundations for United’s new era, the prolific Portuguese forward’s infectious ambition could prove key in inspiring the club’s next crop.
Ronaldo has always loved a challenge. And the challenge of helping Ten Hag turn the tide at United may well be his biggest one yet.