Manchester United made every face in the red half of the city smile this summer by bringing Cristiano Ronaldo home.
It was seemingly touch-and-go for a while, with the Portuguese in talks with Manchester City over a shock move, but in the end – following some divine intervention from Sir Alex Ferguson – it was United who won the race for his signature.
Ronaldo joined Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in arriving at the club this summer to make Man United one of the best teams in the Premier League – on paper at least.
Ronaldo flew into Manchester last week and is settling into his new home.
He’s due to meet his teammates and is scheduled to make his second Red Devils debut on September 11, when Man United play host to Newcastle.
Ahead of the match, and the Coming of the Second Cris, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and serial trophy-hoarder has made a demand of his new teammates – to clinch the title this season.
A source close to Man United told The Sun: “The players are so excited about the arrival of Ronaldo.
“They have been given this huge boost, and they feel very confident. The players and coaching staff now believe they have the best squad in the league and can win the Premier League this season.
“Ronaldo has also spoken to Bruno Fernandes and told him to tell the other players that they need to win it this year. They need to work hard and start to believe in themselves.
“The players have not stopped talking about Ronaldo since he signed and they can’t wait to train and play alongside.”
Now, Ronaldo’s demand is exactly what everyone connected to the club wants to hear and is exactly the reason why the forward was signed in the first place.
But his words only further bring to light the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to succeed this season.
United have shown remarkable signs of improvement under the Norwegian – more so than most expected or give Solskjaer credit for – but, finally, he’s at the fork in the road.
Until now Solskjaer has been able to wheel out the ‘we’re a team in transition excuse’ that has been used by all of the top teams to varying degrees in recent years.
But this summer the Red Devils board went above and beyond to equip Solskjaer with the weapons he needs to win United a first Premier League title since 2013 and there can be no excuses.
Jamie Redknapp recently spoke of Ronaldo’s return on Sky Sports, pointing out the impact it will have had on United.
“Ronaldo going back to Manchester United, it’s nostalgic, it’s amazing,” he said.
“The other side of it is that he’s 36. How does Ole fit him in? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got such a big job to keep everybody happy.”
But he was quick to point out that Ronaldo isn’t here to take pictures at Old Trafford. He is expecting United to be the same team he left back in 2009 – one capable of winning trophies – and he won’t settle for anything less.
“That brings tremendous pressure because now, not having won anything at Manchester United, he has to win something,” added Redknapp. “Ole now, as excited as he is, this will bring a lot of sleepless nights trying to keep everybody happy in that football club.”
If Solskjaer can go one better than he has been going this campaign then it seems everything has fallen into place for United – the fairytale will have well and truly concluded with a happy ending.
But if the Red Devils fall short then Solskjaer will have some heavy critics to answer to.