Cristiano Ronaldo's return: The story so far
As we all eagerly anticipate Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on Saturday, there’s an opportunity to look back on what has been a whirlwind two weeks for all involved with Manchester United.
Our capture of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was announced at 16:51 BST on Friday 27 August, after a helter-skelter couple of hours following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comment at the end of his pre-Wolves press conference.
“He knows what we feel about him,” said the boss cheekily, knowing the move was close to being confirmed behind the scenes. “If he was ever going to move from Juventus, he knows that we’re here.”
All of a sudden, from fearing Thursday’s rumours were true and that Cristiano might rock up on the other side of Manchester, Reds were united in the buzz of seeing our legendary no.7 back at the Theatre of Dreams once again.
The euphoria continued after our official announcement through Friday night and across the weekend, as supporters, players and just about everyone in football woke up and began to realise it wasn’t all just a dream.
The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford used social media to welcome their provisional new team-mate, while Under-18s’ midfielder Sam Mather reproduced Cristiano’s famous ‘siiiuuu!’ celebration when scoring at Leeds.
On the Sunday, the Red Army gloried in the news, singing ‘Viva Ronaldo!’ virtually uninterrupted all afternoon, as a cardboard cut-out of the 36-year-old bobbed along – whether it survived the celebrations after Mason Greenwood’s late winner is yet to be confirmed.
Tuesday 31 August was transfer deadline day across Europe, but the headlines were made before 10:00 BST, when the completion of Cristiano’s transfer from Juventus to United was confirmed.
The great man was away on international duty with Portugal at the time, so a full unveiling would have to wait a little longer.
However, he still took time out to communicate with his 300 million-plus Instagram followers, saying “Everyone who knows me, knows about my never-ending love for Manchester United.
“The years I spent in this club were absolutely amazing and the path we’ve made together is written in gold letters in the history of this great and amazing institution.”
The message carried a heart-rending postscript to former manager and mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, on which Ronaldo elaborated on the Wednesday, as he sat down at the Portugal camp to conduct his first club media interview since rejoining – in our new adidas and TeamViewer home kit for 2021/22, of course.
United fans were still 10 days away from that potential debut date with Newcastle, but later that night Cristiano left us truly tantalised at what might be to come, heading a sensational double for the Selecao, to break Ireland hearts – and Ali Daei’s men’s international goalscoring record.
“I’m not closing the count just yet…” he posted the following day: a message, as if one were needed, that even after all those goals, trophies and records, he is simply nowhere near being finished.
Two big questions remained for supporters: what squad number would Ronaldo be given and when would he arrive in Manchester?
Both were soon answered, as the forward continued to dominate the news agenda in the midst of the break.
First, it was announced that Edinson Cavani would kindly give up his shirt and move to no.21, allowing Cristiano to once again don the no.7 in which he had risen from skilful teenage prospect to the best player in the world.
Predictably, shirts flew off the shelves, while queues for the Megastore snaked round the block.
That same day, Ronaldo was released from the Portugal squad – he had picked up a suspension for their next competitive game – meaning he was free to fly to the UK and begin preparations for Saturday 11 September.
He was met by former team-mate and technical director Darren Fletcher at the airport and then relaxed for a few days at home with his family before reporting for training at Carrington on Tuesday 7 September.
Over 12 years since he last left our training ground, it really was incredible to see Ronaldo join up with a United squad again and, for once, the weather in Manchester was glorious, too!
At Old Trafford, work was beginning for the Newcastle game, with Cristiano and fellow new boy Raphael Varane being added to the massive East Stand mural on Wednesday.
There was still time for another exclusive just two days before Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, as the Portuguese star once again stepped out on to the hallowed turf.
He was interviewed by former team-mate and fellow Champions League winner, Wes Brown, and was keen to emphasise, ahead of that second debut, that he means business.
“I am not here for vacation,” he said. “As I told you, before was good, winning important things and I wore the shirt before many years ago, but I am here to win again.
“I am capable, me and my team-mates. I am ready to go, I am ready to go. It is a good chance for me, for the supporters, for the club, to get one step ahead. I am ready and I think I will be a huge thing in the next three or four years.”
Reading that after the whirlwind last fortnight, we can't wait to see what happens next!