COMMENT: He has to rein him in. For his sake. For his club’s. Cristiano Ronaldo needs to instruct Jorge Mendes that he’s off the market…
Suddenly. Inevitably. The momentum shifts. No longer is it Ronaldo doing United a favour by sticking around. Now it’s United which offer the Portuguese an unexpected opportunity of real late career success.
Okay, okay, it’s early doors. But there’s a buzz about the place. Behind the scenes, Erik ten Hag isn’t talking it down. And those above him feel the same way. This United team could genuinely sustain a title challenge this season.
And in terms of personnel – and in personality – it’s a new team. A completely different team to what we saw at the beginning of last season. Lisandro Martinez. Tyrell Malacia. Casemiro. Antony. They’ve lifted the place. Both in quality and in atmosphere. But there’s also a fully fit Raphael Varane. And a fully settled Jadon Sancho. Ten Hag has had his influence, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s the players at this stage whom are making the difference. In a matter of 12 months, it’s been a complete renewal of a flagging, dejected team. And the rejuvenation is far from over.
It’s why Ten Hag will be chairing multiple transfer summits during the international break. For the first time in quite some years, January is being viewed at United as a title winning opportunity, “We will also look to the window in January,” said Ten Hag. A strategic window to build on the momentum generated by his summer choices. With the manager so bullish, United’s top brass are convinced. A successful January can drive this team to a real title challenge.
Of course, the players have played their part. Thanks to the impact of his four arrivals, Ten Hag is gaining more and more control of transfer policy. The Dutchman is being proved right. For many, including this column, his choices far exceeding expectations – and that includes the ones denied him. United fans should acknowledge it – it’s now six goals in seven Serie A games at Bologna for Marko Arnautovic… again, despite the backlash that thwarted the move, Ten Hag was right.
With momentum building. With the place jumping. It’s now Ronaldo’s turn to join the party. With the club finally heading in the right direction, the last thing they need is for Jorge Mendes to start putting it about that his star client wants to leave. Ten Hag and United’s dressing room don’t need another Paul Pogba situation to check their newly discovered impetus.
Indeed, the best thing Ronaldo could do for his teammates would be to carry out that threat of ‘telling all’. Give the exclusive to MUTV. Sit down with Stewart Gardner. And pledge his commitment to the remainder of his contract – and beyond. Knock all this speculation on it’s head about the Saudis and €240m-odd mega contracts. Put us all straight and allow the momentum to continue.
And as for that Al Hilal deal. Well, no-one’s more surprised by the claims than the Saudis themselves. They’ll take the global publicity, sure. The Saudi FA’s president, Yasser Al-Mishal, happily talking up the prospect of Ronaldo eventually making a move to the SPL. But as Al-Mishal said just Sunday, such a prospect is still some way off.
Meanwhile, for Al Hilal, they’ve been more concerned about keeping hold of their current imports than looking outside for new foreign stars. The SPL title holders hit with a transfer ban for the next two windows. How that chimes with the talk coming out of Madrid regarding this world record contract offer is anyone’s guess. Certainly, this story wasn’t generated out of Riyadh.
Whatever skerrick of truth is related to it, such a story does nothing for his manager nor his teammates. Indeed, it really does little for Ronaldo, himself. After a summer of speculation and rejection, Ronaldo’s best bet is to commit to Ten Hag and this new look United team. He still has a role to play. The sort of role Sir Alex Ferguson suggested just over a year ago as he contemplated his next move after ending things with Juventus.
Ten Hag and these new teammates have given him this chance. A chance to rebuild and restore the club to where he left it 13 years ago. He can be that positive force – but he needs to make sure his agent is on the same page.
For his sake. For his club’s. Ronaldo needs to instruct Jorge Mendes that he’s off the market…