Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and David De Gea expressed their excitement for Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford after defeating Wolves 1-0 on Sunday.

United set an English football record as they reached 28 away games without defeat with Sunday's win but the travelling fans had more reason to celebrate earlier in the week.

The Red Devils announced on Friday that a deal worth £12.8m (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons had been agreed with Juventus to bring Ronaldo back to Manchester for a second spell.

And following United's record-breaking outing at Molineux, De Gea spoke excitedly about linking up with the Portugal captain.

"It’s like a dream for all the Manchester United fans, for us," the Spain goalkeeper said to Sky Sports post-match.

"To have him [Cristiano Ronaldo] back it is going to be great, you can feel in the atmosphere. Hopefully, he can bring something special as well to make the team even better. It's great to have him."

 

Pogba, who surpassed Ronaldo's Premier League assist record for the Red Devils against Southampton last Sunday, echoed De Gea's sentiments.

"Everybody knows [what he brings]," the Frenchman told Sky Sports. "He's already a legend in this club and he's coming back, so obviously it's huge for us, for the club.

"He's going to bring his experience, his quality and obviously when he comes the level goes up.

"We're really pleased he's coming but the most important today is the win so when he comes we keep this mentality of winning, and keep winning."

Roy Keane says Cristiano Ronaldo will bring a "winning mentality" to Old Trafford but his arrival will not enable Manchester United to lift "big trophies".

The Red Devils on Friday sensationally confirmed a deal has been agreed with Juventus to bring the Portugal captain back to the club where he became one of the best players in the world.

United will reportedly pay £12.8million (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons for the prolific forward, who scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson before joining Real Madrid in 2009.

Three Premier League titles, a Champions League triumph and an FA Cup success were among the honours Ronaldo achieved during his six years with United.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's former captain believes he will be a great acquisition for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

Asked if he had been swept along by the euphoria ahead of Ronaldo's impending arrival, the ex-United skipper told Sky Sports: "Yes I have, it's been great. I think it's great news for United: for the fans, for the Premier League.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's still a world class player. People might have doubts about him but the hunger, the desire is still there. It's certainly not pay day for him, the guy is worth fortunes.

"We saw in the Euros he won the Golden Boot. The World Cup is about a year and a half away, he'll have that incentive to keep going."

Yet Keane does not expect the presence of Ronaldo to help United win the Premier League or Champions League.

He added: "He's a clever guy, I think he's only coming back to Man United to win stuff. Okay, my doubts are I don't think he'll be the difference in winning the big trophies, but to win an FA Cup or a League Cup, I think that's more than possible.

"But he'd want more than that. I think he'll bring a winning mentality to the dressing room, we all know he's a fitness freak.

"His game has changed over the last year few years obviously and I've said it before, I think he's one of the most intelligent players I've ever seen in my life, the way he's adapted his game.

"He's a winner, he's coming back to Man United to win stuff, make no mistake about that. But Man United still have the same problems with or without Ronaldo and that is midfield and goalkeeping problems. But for Ronaldo, I think it's great."

Jose Mourinho declared Cristiano Ronaldo's move back to Manchester United is "perfect business".

In a remarkable turnaround on Friday, United confirmed they had agreed to sign Ronaldo – who left Old Trafford in 2009 – from Juventus.

The 36-year-old is reportedly completing a medical in Lisbon this weekend, with personal terms and a visa to be finalised.

Mourinho, who is now at Roma after an ill-fated spell at Tottenham, managed his compatriot Ronaldo at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013 and later went on to coach United as well.

Ronaldo had one of his best goalscoring seasons in 2011-12 under Mourinho's tutelage, scoring 60 times across 55 appearances in all competitions.

 

The forward averaged 1.1 goals per appearance, or one every 81.7 minutes. That haul included seven hat-tricks and he also provided 15 assists over the course of the season.

Asked for his thoughts on Ronaldo's swift departure from Serie A, and his United return, former Red Devils boss Mourinho told a news conference: "The only thing I say – and it looks to me something basic and logic – is that if Juventus are happy, if Cristiano is happy and if Manchester United are happy, this is the perfect business.

"I think there is no need to talk about Cristiano.

"There is no need to make any comment about someone who plays, wins, scores and makes history for 20 years."

Ronaldo represents United's fourth addition of the transfer window, following on from Tom Heaton, Jadon Sancho and his former Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane.

Kylian Mbappe is dominating headlines amid Real Madrid's pursuit.

Madrid are keen to prise Mbappe to the LaLiga club, though Paris Saint-Germain are in no hurry to part with the soon-to-be free agent.

Due to PSG's tough stance, Madrid could back out of negotiations.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID GIVE PSG ULTIMATUM

Real Madrid could walk away from their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Le Parisien.

While Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season, Madrid have been attempting to prise the Frenchman from PSG before the transfer window shuts.

The report claims Madrid will walk away from negotiations if a deal is not completed by Sunday.

There has been talk that PSG could target Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland as a replacement for Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

Lautaro Martinez has agreed to sign a new contract with Inter, per Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract in 2023, the Argentina international – linked with the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United – will re-sign for four to five years at €6million per season.

Willian will join Corinthians on a free transfer after Arsenal granted his release, says Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also claims Feyenoord are close to bringing United sensation Amad Diallo to the Eredivisie club on loan.

- Widespread reports say Moise Kean is set to undergo a medical at Juventus as he gears up to join from Everton. It comes as Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to return to United. Juve are also eyeing PSG forward Mauro Icardi.

Dortmund are working on a loan deal for Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi, according to Sky Germany. Hudson-Odoi has long been coveted by Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Dortmund are also looking to bring in United full-back Diogo Dalot.

Chelsea are nearing a transfer that will see Jules Kounde arrive from Sevilla after Kurt Zouma departed for West Ham, reports Goal. Chelsea are also reportedly still targeting Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who is wanted by United.

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus cannot keep thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo after the struggling Serie A giants crashed to a shock loss against Empoli without the Manchester United-bound superstar.

Without Ronaldo as he edges closer to returning to Premier League contenders United, Allegri's Juve were upstaged 1-0 by visitors and newly promoted Empoli in Turin on Saturday.

Mancuso's strike lifted Empoli to a surprise victory and condemned Juve to a winless start to the season following last week's draw at Udinese.

Juve have failed to win either of their opening two in the competition for the third time in the last 52 Serie A seasons – having done so in 2010-11 and 2015-16, and head coach Allegri was asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo's exit post game.

"Cristiano spent three years at Juventus, he scored goals, which he is very good at, he's an extraordinary player, but we cannot think about Ronaldo from now on," Allegri told DAZN.

"I have a fine squad, we simply must realise that we can't just dominate every match.

"We need to come together and this will help us for the future.

"I am optimistic, always."

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 and he remained an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 81 goals in 98 Serie A games.

The 36-year-old 29 league goals last season and 36 across all competitions. In 2020-21, only four players across Europe's top five leagues scored more goals than his 36-goal haul.

Ronaldo is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. He won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

The Portugal captain made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

Meanwhile, Juve have lost two successive Serie A home matches against promoted sides for the first time in their top-flight history.

Juve have also lost two consecutive league fixtures against promoted teams (Benevento in March and Empoli on Saturday) for the first time since 1999.

The Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 16 league games – only twice in their Serie A history they have been on a longer streak without a clean sheet: 19 in April 2010 and 21 in October 1955

Massimiliano Allegri insisted Juventus will improve after a 1-0 home defeat to Empoli on Saturday left them winless in Serie A after two matches.

Leonardo Mancuso scored what proved to be the winner in Turin as Juve looked toothless up top without Cristiano Ronaldo, who edges closer to joining Manchester United.

Mancuso's first-half effort means Juve remain winless after their opening two games – the third time they have done so in 52 Serie A campaigns – following a 2-2 draw against Udinese last weekend. It capped a night to remember for Empoli, who secured a first away Serie A win at Juve after 11 defeats and one draw. 

And despite a slow start to the 2021-22 campaign, Allegri is remaining upbeat.

"Tonight the team started well, after the goal we disunited and we put ourselves in the hands of the team," Allegri told DAZN.

"[Against] Empoli, it was necessary to have more patience, to play as a team and not individually.

"It's not easy, we have a point after two games, but we have all the time to improve.

"It's a difficult moment, we need to grow. There have been too many players who have done things wrong that are not usually wrong."

Leonardo Mancuso scored to secure a surprise 1-0 victory for newly-promoted Empoli in Turin that left Juventus stunned and still without a win in Serie A this season.

Mancuso ended his side's five-game run without a league goal at Juve in the competition as he opened the scoring from close range, while Guglielmo Vicario impressed in goal.

Without Cristiano Ronaldo as he edges closer to returning to Manchester United, Juve's main attacking threat came through Federico Chiesa, but even he could not steer any of his three attempts past the Empoli goalkeeper.

Chiesa forced early saves from Vicario, with surging runs creating both opportunities before the goalkeeper produced smart saves to parry away.

However, it was Mancuso who struck first, profiting from Nedim Bajrami's deflected shot to spin and volley past Wojciech Szczesny. 

Mancuso's opener stunned the vociferous Allianz Stadium and was Empoli's first Serie A away goal against Juventus since Sergio Almiron netted in January 2006.

Vicario pushed away another low effort from Chiesa, while Patrick Cutrone almost made it two but fired narrowly wide to Szczesny's right with a thumping effort.

On the stroke of half-time, Szczesny was called into action once more, retreating quickly to tip over the crossbar and spare Chiesa's blushes after the Juventus forward had looked to head backwards.

Paolo Dybala started the second half encouragingly, linking up with Alvaro Morata and drilling at Vicario before Bajrami forced another save from Szczesny.

Dybala curled wide from a free-kick, but the hosts failed to find a way past Vicario, ensuring a memorable victory for Empoli.

Cristiano Ronaldo will want to "set the Premier League on fire" and lead Manchester United back to silverware, according to his former team-mate Gary Neville.

Ex-United captain Neville conceded it had been "torture" for anyone connected with United to contemplate the prospect of the 36-year-old joining rivals Manchester City.

Instead, Ronaldo is poised to make a sensational return to United 12 years after the end of his initial six-year spell at Old Trafford.

United have agreed a fee reportedly worth up to €23million with Juventus, with the forward set to sign a two-year contract.

While it may only be a short-term move, Neville thinks it is a transfer that could prove the difference as United look to challenge for a first Premier League title since 2013.

"It's fantastic news," Sky Sports pundit Nevill said. "It's a little bit nostalgic, which doesn't always work in football, but the idea of Ronaldo going to Manchester City was torture for United fans.

"If there is a big player available, United have to be in the market. 

"We know there's a potential that Erling Haaland could be available next summer, Edinson Cavani's probably got a year, they definitely need a centre-forward option with Cavani.

"I know they've got Mason Greenwood but if you look at the business Chelsea have done, that Manchester City were looking to do, Manchester United had to compete.

"What they've done is bolster the squad with a proven goalscorer, a club legend, and it's going to give them an incredible 12 months.

"Ronaldo will be coming to win trophies, personal accolades, set the Premier League on fire. 

"It is a different Ronaldo, everyone expected that. But he is a number nine, someone who still has that burst over short distances, he makes great runs inside the box, has anticipation of where the ball's going to drop, and he gives United something they need.

"This is one of the most special players that has ever lived, forget Manchester United, it's one of the greats of all time."

Given the strength of title rivals City, Chelsea and Liverpool, Neville felt a move of this stature was needed if United are to have realistic title ambitions.

Neville added: "I said the other day United should be in for Harry Kane if he was available, or Haaland. These types of player. 

"To get above Manchester City and Chelsea they're going to have to do something big, and this could give them a temporary shot in the arm to get them right up there this year.

"I was a little bit fearful watching Chelsea last weekend, knowing City are going to be strong, Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk back, that United could improve but finish in a lower position. 

"But this news gives me more hope that they can have a great season."

Paris Saint-Germain have lined up several options to replace Kylian Mbappe.

A deal with Real Madrid could create a domino effect. 

Who might be on the move to PSG?

 

TOP STORY – PSG LINE UP MBAPPE REPLACEMENTS

Paris Saint-Germain do not plan to let Kylian Mbappe go to Real Madrid this transfer window without replacing him. 

The French giants have their eyes on multiple players should Los Blancos' reported €180million bid for the striker succeed. 

Two Brazilians currently in the Premier League top the list, as Globo Esporte says PSG want Gabriel Jesus – though Pep Guardiola said he does not expect any more departures from Manchester City. 

PSG also reportedly are weighing up a bid for Everton's Richarlison, says ESPN Brasil. 

And though all indications have been that Erling Haaland will stay put with Borussia Dortmund, the Star says PSG could make another bid if Mbappe departs. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Jules Kounde is ready to move from Sevilla to Chelsea, says Sky Sports News, but the Blues are balking at the Spanish club's €80m asking price and are prepared to offer only about €50m.

- Everton are closing in on a swap deal that would send James Rodriguez to Porto with Luis Diaz joining the Toffees, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles could also be on the move to Everton, reports Sky Sports News, who say the Premier League side have also asked Celtic about Odsonne Edouard

- Meanwhile, Juventus are in talks with Everton about a deal for Moise Kean, who has become their top priority with Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, says Romano.

- Roma could make a move for Atletico Madrid's Hector Herrera, according to Calciomercato. 

- Aston Villa are weighing a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, reports Tuttosport. 

- Atalanta have their eyes on AZ Alkmaar's Teun Koopmeiners, says Calciomercato. 

Cristiano Ronaldo ripped off his shirt and celebrated as though he had netted the winner in a World Cup final, rather than a stoppage-time clincher at Udinese that was disallowed moments later.

That was his farewell moment at Juventus, the performative Portuguese signing off with a magical thumping header that counted for nothing and a yellow card for showing the world that torso once again.

Manchester City awaited him, so it seemed, but incredibly Ronaldo is heading back to the red half of the city, back to Manchester United, providing wages and fitness prove no obstacle. Terms for the transfer have been agreed with Juve.

United have swooped for Ronaldo twice now, as an 18-year-old and at the grand age of 36. Derby day on the first weekend in November is now a red-letter day.

Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid at the end of the 2008-09 season, just weeks before Carlos Tevez swapped red for blue, pointing to a swing in the balance of power in English football.

Twelve years later and he is back in the north west, United pinching him from under the noses of City to lead their attack and the pursuit of Premier League glory.

 

But none of this makes sense...

Ronaldo looked a banker for a City switch before United and Jorge Mendes, the player's agent, held discussions. The Manchester Evening News reported Ronaldo's former United boss and mentor Alex Ferguson spoke to the one-time Old Trafford boy wonder, and that involvement looks to have been a moment that helped sway the now veteran striker from blue to red. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand's phone call also helped.

Pep Guardiola was expected to be cautious about the prospects of Ronaldo joining his City squad when he held a lunchtime news conference, but only out of sensible circumspection. Rather than playing a straight bat, however, he was highly pessimistic, and that was an alert that something had changed dramatically.

The BBC soon reported City had ended their interest in Ronaldo, who had instead begun talks with United, and the hints that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped in United's earlier news conference grew in resonance. At shortly before 17:00 BST, confirmation arrived from United of an agreement with Juve. All this within hours of Ronaldo saying his goodbyes at Juve's training ground in the morning.

Why do United need him? They seem well stocked for strikers

Ronaldo is unmistakably in the diminishing returns stage of his career, much like Edinson Cavani whom he joins in the Old Trafford ranks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are at the opposite end, striving to become United greats, and Anthony Martial, who should be nearing his peak years, is desperate for a run of games.

Into this battle for places walks one of the two greatest players of the past 20 years – some would say of all-time – and Solskjaer will discover his former team-mate Ronaldo still has a huge appetite for the game. His goal celebration antics at Udinese were easy to mock in light of the VAR outcome, but they showed his passion burns bright.

The data tells us Ronaldo is a fading force, but by most standards he remains a formidable footballer. He scored a decidedly healthy 36 goals for Juventus across all competitions last season, at one every 104.19 minutes. The minutes-per-goal ratio was a slight improvement on his first two campaigns with Juve, but in eight of his nine years at Real Madrid he scored at a rate better than one every 90 minutes.

He is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. Ronaldo won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

Ronaldo also made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

At his best with Madrid, Ronaldo hit 55 goals in the 2012-13 season from an xG of 29.49, indicating he was far exceeding expected performance levels based on the quality of his chances.

He remains a tremendous penalty box predator and it would be surprising if he fails to hit 20 goals in the Premier League, but Ronaldo's contribution outside the 18-yard box has fallen away.

His style looked an awkward fit for City, who have sought flexibility from their front players, often favouring a 'false nine' system. Ronaldo has evolved from thrilling winger in his teens to feared targetman, and United's style is far more fitting to his game, so that aspect of the transfer makes sense.

United presumably also very much wanted him so that City couldn't have him.

What it means for United

Ronaldo gave United six years of his young career before being granted his wish to leave in June 2009, making a then world record £80million switch to Madrid.

He departed after a season where United won the Premier League and City finished 10th, with Ferguson's team also lifting the EFL Cup, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Much has changed in English football, but Ronaldo is not blind to that. This represents a chance to end his career bathed in glory again in Manchester, with the Old Trafford crowd ready to worship him once more.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season and they began this campaign as favourites to notch up another title. Signing Ronaldo would not only have hurt United deeply, but it would possibly have made this year's title race a procession.

Consider it game on now.

It was May 10, 2009, when Ronaldo last appeared in a United-City clash, scoring a deflected free-kick before being rested after 58 minutes by Ferguson as the Red Devils scored a 2-0 Old Trafford victory.

Ronaldo left the field in frustration, wanting to play for longer, but days earlier he had been the prime architect of the famous 3-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, and Ferguson wanted to save his star asset for the tests ahead, particularly the European final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Now the long-retired Ferguson's influence tells once more. He persuaded Ronaldo to take his United career into extra time during his first stint at the club, and now the man Jose Mourinho describes as Solskjaer's 'big boss' has struck again.


Messi v Ronaldo: The reunion's off!

The great rivalry between the standout players of their generation looked set to be rekindled in the Champions League group stage, with Ronaldo's City taking on Messi's PSG. Scrub that now though. Any such clash will have to wait for the knock-out rounds, with United having Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys to negotiate in their pool.

This announcement tells us United are craving Champions League success again. They have won the competition three times, while Ronaldo has done so on five occasions, once with United and four times at Madrid. In three years at Juventus, he could not drag the Old Lady of Italian football to European glory, however, a disappointment given that had been ostensibly why he was signed.

United's owners, the Glazer family, will expect the investment in Ronaldo to pay off handsomely, given his commercial appeal and United's global reach. And the  Glazers even stand to earn a little rare kudos from supporters who are bound to get misty-eyed at this deal.

Signing a five-time Ballon d'Or winner will be interpreted as taking a short-cut to glory. It is a gamble too though.

Two Scudetti in three years at Juventus was one fewer than Ronaldo may have expected to take away from Turin, given Juventus were on a seven-in-a-row streak when he joined, and the coach who delivered the second of those titles, Maurizio Sarri, recently spoke of the challenges involved in accounting for the Portuguese's imposing presence.

Sarri told Sportitalia in July: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage."

But Sarri ventured that there were "many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results".

The ego has landed, back in Manchester, back in red. It's one-nil to Solskjaer and his big boss in the season's first battle of Manchester, and the rest of the campaign should be a thrill ride.

Cristiano Ronaldo ripped off his shirt and celebrated as though he had netted the winner in a World Cup final, rather than a stoppage-time clincher at Udinese that was disallowed moments later.

That was his farewell moment at Juventus, the performative Portuguese signing off with a magical thumping header that counted for nothing and a yellow card for showing the world that torso once again.

Manchester City awaited him, so it seemed, but incredibly Ronaldo is heading back to the red half of the city, back to Manchester United, providing wages and fitness prove no obstacle. Terms for the transfer have been agreed with Juve.

United have swooped for Ronaldo twice now, as an 18-year-old and at the grand age of 36. Derby day on the first weekend in November is now a red-letter day.

Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid at the end of the 2008-09 season, just weeks before Carlos Tevez swapped red for blue, pointing to a swing in the balance of power in English football.

Twelve years later and he is back in the north west, United pinching him from under the noses of City to lead their attack and the pursuit of Premier League glory.

 

But none of this makes sense...

Ronaldo looked a banker for a City switch before United and Jorge Mendes, the player's agent, held discussions. The Manchester Evening News reported Ronaldo's former United boss and mentor Alex Ferguson spoke to the one-time Old Trafford boy wonder, and that involvement looks to have been a moment that helped sway the now veteran striker from blue to red. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand's phone call also helped.

Pep Guardiola was expected to be cautious about the prospects of Ronaldo joining his City squad when he held a lunchtime news conference, but only out of sensible circumspection. Rather than playing a straight bat, however, he was highly pessimistic, and that was an alert that something had changed dramatically.

The BBC soon reported City had ended their interest in Ronaldo, who had instead begun talks with United, and the hints that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped in United's earlier news conference grew in resonance. At shortly before 17:00 BST, confirmation arrived from United of an agreement with Juve. All this within hours of Ronaldo saying his goodbyes at Juve's training ground in the morning.

Why do United need him? They seem well stocked for strikers

Ronaldo is unmistakably in the diminishing returns stage of his career, much like Edinson Cavani whom he joins in the Old Trafford ranks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are at the opposite end, striving to become United greats, and Anthony Martial, who should be nearing his peak years, is desperate for a run of games.

Into this battle for places walks one of the two greatest players of the past 20 years – some would say of all-time – and Solskjaer will discover his former team-mate Ronaldo still has a huge appetite for the game. His goal celebration antics at Udinese were easy to mock in light of the VAR outcome, but they showed his passion burns bright.

The data tells us Ronaldo is a fading force, but by most standards he remains a formidable footballer. He scored a decidedly healthy 36 goals for Juventus across all competitions last season, at one every 104.19 minutes. The minutes-per-goal ratio was a slight improvement on his first two campaigns with Juve, but in eight of his nine years at Real Madrid he scored at a rate better than one every 90 minutes.

He is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. Ronaldo won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

Ronaldo also made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

At his best with Madrid, Ronaldo hit 55 goals in the 2012-13 season from an xG of 29.49, indicating he was far exceeding expected performance levels based on the quality of his chances.

He remains a tremendous penalty box predator and it would be surprising if he fails to hit 20 goals in the Premier League, but Ronaldo's contribution outside the 18-yard box has fallen away.

His style looked an awkward fit for City, who have sought flexibility from their front players, often favouring a 'false nine' system. Ronaldo has evolved from thrilling winger in his teens to feared targetman, and United's style is far more fitting to his game, so that aspect of the transfer makes sense.

United presumably also very much wanted him so that City couldn't have him.

What it means for United

Ronaldo gave United six years of his young career before being granted his wish to leave in June 2009, making a then world record £80million switch to Madrid.

He departed after a season where United won the Premier League and City finished 10th, with Ferguson's team also lifting the EFL Cup, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Much has changed in English football, but Ronaldo is not blind to that. This represents a chance to end his career bathed in glory again in Manchester, with the Old Trafford crowd ready to worship him once more.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season and they began this campaign as favourites to notch up another title. Signing Ronaldo would not only have hurt United deeply, but it would possibly have made this year's title race a procession.

Consider it game on now.

It was May 10, 2009, when Ronaldo last appeared in a United-City clash, scoring a deflected free-kick before being rested after 58 minutes by Ferguson as the Red Devils scored a 2-0 Old Trafford victory.

Ronaldo left the field in frustration, wanting to play for longer, but days earlier he had been the prime architect of the famous 3-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, and Ferguson wanted to save his star asset for the tests ahead, particularly the European final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Now the long-retired Ferguson's influence tells once more. He persuaded Ronaldo to take his United career into extra time during his first stint at the club, and now the man Jose Mourinho describes as Solskjaer's 'big boss' has struck again.


Messi v Ronaldo: The reunion's off!

The great rivalry between the standout players of their generation looked set to be rekindled in the Champions League group stage, with Ronaldo's City taking on Messi's PSG. Scrub that now though. Any such clash will have to wait for the knock-out rounds, with United having Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys to negotiate in their pool.

This announcement tells us United are craving Champions League success again. They have won the competition three times, while Ronaldo has done so on five occasions, once with United and four times at Madrid. In three years at Juventus, he could not drag the Old Lady of Italian football to European glory, however, a disappointment given that had been ostensibly why he was signed.

United's owners, the Glazer family, will expect the investment in Ronaldo to pay off handsomely, given his commercial appeal and United's global reach. And the  Glazers even stand to earn a little rare kudos from supporters who are bound to get misty-eyed at this deal.

Signing a five-time Ballon d'Or winner will be interpreted as taking a short-cut to glory. It is a gamble too though.

Two Scudetti in three years at Juventus was one fewer than Ronaldo may have expected to take away from Turin, given Juventus were on a seven-in-a-row streak when he joined, and the coach who delivered the second of those titles, Maurizio Sarri, recently spoke of the challenges involved in accounting for the Portuguese's imposing presence.

Sarri told Sportitalia in July: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage."

But Sarri ventured that there were "many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results".

The ego has landed, back in Manchester, back in red. It's one-nil to Solskjaer and his big boss in the season's first battle of Manchester, and the rest of the campaign should be a thrill ride.

Cristiano Ronaldo reflected on writing a "beautiful story" at Juventus after Manchester United confirmed they have sensationally agreed a deal to re-sign the forward.

Ronaldo was reported to be on his way to Manchester City before the Red Devils revealed the club legend is poised to return to Old Trafford.

The Portugal captain will head back for a second spell in the Premier League, subject to agreement of personal terms, securing a visa and passing a medical.

United are said to have agreed to pay £12.8million (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons for the prolific 36-year-old, who won Serie A title twice with Juve following his switch from Real Madrid in 2018.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner posted a farewell message on Instagram after United revealed a deal has been done.

"Today I depart from an amazing club, the biggest in Italy and surely one of the biggest in all of Europe. I gave my heart and soul for Juventus and I’ll always love the city of Turin until my final days," he posted.

"The "tiffosi bianconeri" always respected me and I tried to thank that respect by fighting for them in every game, every season, every competition.

"In the end, we can all look back and realize that we achieved great things, not all that we wanted, but still, we wrote a pretty beautiful story together.

"I will always be one of you. You are now part of my history, as I feel that I'm part of yours. Italy, Juve, Turin, tiffosi bianconeri, you'll always be in my heart."

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be playing back at Old Trafford again in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed they have reached an agreement with Juventus for the transfer of the Portugal great.

While personal terms, a medical and visa are still to be sorted out for Ronaldo, it would take something remarkable to stop him from joining now after a deal reportedly worth up to €23million (£19.7m) was agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

But apparent interventions from Ronaldo's former United manager Alex Ferguson and old team-mate Rio Ferdinand may have swung the race in the Red Devils' favour.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to open the door to Ronaldo during his news conference on Friday, and just a few hours later United confirmed a deal had been struck with Juventus.

Following confirmation of the deal, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who went back to their spiritual home, starting with the Portugal captain…

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his last spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who probably averaged four stepovers per minute before leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and an ice-cold finisher. His then-world record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is all set for a return to England – whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, though United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

 

Arjen Robben – Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern Munich finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances in 2020-21. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt – Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez – Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He was expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca this season, but the deal ultimately fell through.

Henrik Larsson – Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move away. A trophy laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man Utd and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend suggested he had not finished playing yet and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo is set for a sensational return to Manchester United after the Old Trafford giants confirmed a deal had been agreed with Juventus, beating Manchester City to his signature.

United have reportedly agreed to pay Juventus €15million plus €8m in add-ons for the Portugal captain, who had previously looked close to joining rivals Manchester City.

It marks a stunning coup for the Red Devils at the expense of their neighbours and reigning Premier League champions City, with Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford 12 years after leaving for Real Madrid.

A United statement read: "Manchester United is delighted to confirm the club has reached agreement with Juventus for the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo, subject to agreement of personal terms, visa and medical.

"Cristiano, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, has so far won over 30 major trophies during his career, including five UEFA Champions League titles, four FIFA Club World Cups, seven league titles in England, Spain and Italy, and the European Championship for his native Portugal.

"In his first spell for Manchester United, he scored 118 goals in 292 games. Everyone at the club looks forward to welcoming Cristiano back to Manchester."

 

City had been strongly linked with Tottenham's Harry Kane, but the England captain released a statement on Wednesday confirming he plans to remain at Spurs for 2021-22.

Interest in Ronaldo quickly intensified and the prospect of the former Madrid man joining ex-Barcelona boss Guardiola's City squad was tantalising, yet it failed to come to fruition.

Guardiola admitted in a news conference on Friday that City were nowhere near signing Ronaldo, and it emerged United had jumped ahead of them in the queue, with negotiations then moving at a fast pace.

Remarkably, it appears former United boss Alex Ferguson may have had a telling role in setting up the deal, with the Scot having spoken directly to Ronaldo on Friday morning, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Ferguson signed an 18-year-old Ronaldo from the Portuguese's boyhood club Sporting CP in 2003, and that raw talent went on to establish himself as one of the finest players in Premier League history.

 

His 31-goal season of 2007-08 has only ever been bettered once in a 38-match campaign (Mohamed Salah, 32 in 2017-18). In all competitions that term, Ronaldo netted 42 times as United won the Premier League and Champions League, while he later took home his first Ballon d'Or.

Nine goal-laden years followed at Real Madrid, where he became the club's all-time record scorer, and he remained a reliable frontman for Juventus, scoring 81 times in 98 Serie A matches since the start of 2018-19.

But speculation about his future had been rife for several weeks, and when he was named only as a substitute at Udinese on Sunday, it appeared his time in Italy was almost up.

Juventus denied it, but they can give up on the denials now and start planning for a future without their biggest goal threat.

Sunday's trip to Wolves will come too soon for Ronaldo's second United debut, meaning fans will have to wait until after the international break to see him back on duty for the club.

Rio Ferdinand revealed he rang Cristiano Ronaldo "straight away" in an attempt to persuade the Juventus star not to sign for Manchester City.

Reports this week suggested former Manchester United great Ronaldo had been offered to rivals City by his agent Jorge Mendes.

City were in the hunt for a forward after missing out on Harry Kane, who is staying at Tottenham.

As late as Friday morning – when Ronaldo left Juve training – it appeared the Portugal captain was all set to sign for the Premier League champions.

Speculation only mounted when Juve coach Massimilano Allegri confirmed Ronaldo was leaving Turin, yet in a remarkable turnaround, it is United who are instead set to re-sign the 36-year-old, who they sold to Real Madrid in 2009.

The Red Devils on Friday confirmed they have reached an agreement to bring the 36-year-old back to Old Trafford, subject to agreeing personal terms, a visa application and the completion of a medical.

A fee of €15millon plus €8m in add-ons has been reported.

 

And, in an appearance in an interview for his fashion label, FIVE, Ferdinand revealed he spoke to his former team-mate.

Ferdinand, who was wearing sunglasses in the video, said prior to United confirming a deal has been agreed: "It's a beautiful day man, and when it's a beautiful day you've got wear shades!

"Sir Alex Ferguson would've been exactly the same, he would've hated to see Cristiano Ronaldo in a Man City shirt, just like anyone who’s been connected for a long period of time at this football club.

"I rang him [Ronaldo] straight away: 'What's going on? Tell me you're lying.' Every type of 'no, no, no, no' in the conversation.

"I'm like the fans, we're all the same like that. 'Please tell me you're not going there.' 

"I hope that there's an announcement and it's one that I would be happy with. It's the best. We've seen some great signings this summer."

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