Football: Ronaldo dedicates Man United return to former boss Ferguson

Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo to a two-year contract.
Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo to a two-year contract.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANCHESTER (AFP, REUTERS) - Cristiano Ronaldo declared he was back where he belonged after he re-joined Manchester United from Juventus on a two-year deal on Tuesday (Aug 31), dedicating the move to his mentor Alex Ferguson.

The English Premier League giants completed the signing of the Portugal star from Juventus on Monday, for his second spell at Old Trafford for a €15 million fee that could rise to €23 million (S$36.6 million) with performance-related add-ons.

"Manchester United is delighted to confirm the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo on a two-year contract with the option to extend for a further year, subject to international clearance," United said in a statement.

The Portuguese forward returns to the club where he won eight major trophies from 2003 to 2009.

“Everyone who knows me, knows about my never ending love for Manchester United. The years I spent in this club where absolutely amazing and the path we’ve made together is written in gold letters in the history of this great and amazing institution,” he wrote on Instagram.

“It’s like a dream come true, after all the times that I went back to play against Man United, and even as an opponent, to have always felt such love and respect from the supporters in the stands.

“My first domestic League, my first Cup, my first call to the Portuguese National team, my first Champions League, my first Golden Boot and my first Ballon d’Or, they were all born from this special connection between me and the Red Devils,” added Ronaldo, who spent the last 12 years winning a glut of trophies at Real Madrid and Juventus.

“History has been written in the past and history will be written once again! You have my word!

“I’m back where I belong. Let’s make it happen once again... Sir Alex, this one is for you.”

United announced that they had agreed on a deal with Juventus to bring the 36-year-old back to Manchester last week, with the transfer now complete after Ronaldo passed a medical examination, secured a visa and settled personal terms.

Earlier on Monday, the Serie A giants confirmed his departure, saying in a statement: “Today, after three years, 133 appearances, 101 goals and 5 trophies... paths of CR7 and Juventus separate.”

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo said in a statement from United: “Manchester United is a club that has always had a special place in my heart, and I have been overwhelmed by all the messages I have received since the announcement on Friday. I cannot wait to play at Old Trafford in front of a full stadium and see all the fans again.

“I’m looking forward to joining up with the team after the international games, and I hope we have a very successful season ahead.”

Ferguson signed Ronaldo when he was a teenager in 2003 and the British media had reported last week that the Scot convinced Ronaldo to return to United.

Ronaldo has often spoken in glowing terms of his time at the club and has previously described the 79-year-old as his “father in football”.

The club responded to the post, saying: “Welcome home, Cristiano.”

“Ronaldo’s return demonstrates the unique appeal of this club and I am absolutely delighted he is coming home to where it all started,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who played alongside the Portuguese during his previous time in England.

Ronaldo is expected to make his second United debut against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Sept 11.

His return has capped a transfer window that has made the club’s fans quickly forget the disappointment on the field, and uprising off it, that ended last season.

Just four months ago, supporters stormed the Old Trafford pitch in protest at the club’s owners for their part in the failed European Super League project and a perceived lack of investment in the club, forcing the postponement of a Premier League clash with Liverpool.

In response, the Glazer family have sanctioned a transfer spend of nearly £150 million (S$277.8 million) with Ronaldo joining his former Real teammate Raphael Varane and England winger Jadon Sancho from Dortmund as the new arrivals.

That investment has ramped up the pressure on Solskjaer to deliver the club’s first Premier League title since Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

Solskjaer is yet to win a trophy in more than two years in charge and his mismanagement of the Europa League final which United lost on penalties to Villarreal in United’s final game of last season is still fresh in the memory.

The Norwegian did not make a single substitution until 100 minutes had been played in Gdansk, as United failed to make their far greater resources count.

A lack of strength in depth is not an excuse the 48-year-old will be able to use this season if he fails to end United’s wait for silverware.

On Tuesday, Juventus announced the signing of Moise Kean on a two-year loan from Everton, as the Italian striker returns to the side where he made his professional debut.

"Moise is back and he joins us on loan," Juventus said on their Twitter account.

The club said they agreed to pay a loan fee of €7 million, with €3 million to be paid in the 2021-22 season and €4 million next season.

Kean, who came through Juve’s youth system, made his senior debut in 2016 at the age of 16, becoming the club’s youngest debutant and their second youngest scorer in Serie A.

“The 21-year-old returns to the club, where not only did he take his first steps in professional football, but where he grew up, as a boy and a player, within our youth sector,” Juventus said in a statement.

Kean was the first player born in the 2000s to score a goal in Europe’s top five leagues and has nine caps for Italy, with two goals.

Juve sold him to Everton in the summer of 2019 after excelling in his breakthrough season in Serie A but he failed to impress in England and last season was loaned to Paris Saint-Germain.

He scored 17 times in 41 appearances for the star-studded French side, who lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and were knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Last Friday, Kean was called up to the Italy squad after missing out on Euro 2020, won by Roberto Mancini’s impressive Azzurri last month.