Push Mason Greenwood out wide, get Paul Pogba creating further forward and use Jadon Sancho’s impact from the bench… is THIS how Manchester United could line-up after Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock return?
- Cristiano Ronaldo is back in the Premier League and ready to shake things up
- Manchester United have re-signed the iconic forward for £19.8m from Juventus
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces some big decisions on how he builds his team
- Even big-money new signing Jadon Sancho could be benched for Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is back and he’s primed to terrorise the Premier League again. Now it’s up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to mould a title-winning team around the icon.
The details are all confirmed – a £19.8million transfer from Juventus, a two-year deal with an option for another, £385,000-a-week wages and a medical completed in Lisbon on Monday.
Ronaldo joins Jadon Sancho (£73m) and Raphael Varane (£42m) at Old Trafford amid the transfer window of United fans’ dreams. All that remains is to decide who plays where.
Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United after completing a £19.8million comeback
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now needs to construct a team around the returning superstar
Solskjaer faces some big decision in attack. He has options to blend youth and experience, pace and power, and finishers with creators up front.
With surely their best chance yet of a 21st Premier League, Sportsmail’s TOBY MILES looks at how United’s XI could look with Ronaldo included.
Possible Manchester United 2021/22 XI – (4-2-3-1)
GOALKEEPER: David De Gea
At 30 years old and following a calamitous 2020-21 campaign, the Spaniard has been handed a lifeline.
Dean Henderson’s convincing case to start as Man United’s No 1 was wrecked by a hip injury, allowing De Gea much-needed matches to rediscover his former self.
The Englishman only returned to training on Friday, while De Gea flew back to Carrington early for pre-season after watching Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign from the bench.
It’s now or never for the keeper once known as the world’s best, and his incredible double save from Wolves’ Romain Saiss on Sunday was a great and decisive start, allowing Mason Greenwood the platform to go and win the game late on.
David de Gea needs to quickly re-establish himself in goal before Dean Henderson’s return
RIGHT BACK: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Mr Reliable will need to work on his crossing to impress Cristiano Ronaldo this season.
The right-back has missed just seven Premier League games since arriving from Crystal Palace two years ago, and looks set to nail down the right-back spot at Old Trafford for years to come.
The Englishman’s key shortcomings are his wayward balls into the box. A pay rise and some celebratory embraces with Ronaldo await if he can improve that. But there will be histrionics if he does not!
CENTRE BACK: Harry Maguire
The Englishman was going through a rough time a year ago, having been arrested on holiday in Greece, sent off for England and under intense scrutiny for his performances at club level.
Euro 2020 put any doubts over the £80m centre-back’s ability to bed. Just one goal leaked past the Three Lions defender, who made the Team of the Tournament.
Starting his third campaign with United, the 28-year-old is surrounded by a team capable of making sure he lifts silverware for the first time as United captain.
Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire could turn out to be the centre-back pair United need
CENTRE BACK: Raphael Varane
United’s second signing of the summer started how he means to go on against Wolves, notching a clean sheet and assisting Mason Greenwood’s winner.
The 20-time Premier League champions have needed Varane for years. He’s the experienced, dependable, world-class centre-back that could be the missing piece of the puzzle.
In truth, he may even work out as United’s best addition of the window…
LEFT BACK: Luke Shaw
Only two men had ever scored in a major tournament final for England before Luke Shaw popped up at the back post two minutes into the Euro 2020 final.
Shaw returned home as one of the players of the tournament, capping a sensational resurrection after being cast off by Jose Mourinho.
Totally indispensable in United’s backline these days, the left-back will relish whipping crosses in to meet Ronaldo and his astonishing leap.
Luke Shaw will be spending the season aiming his crosses towards the head of Ronaldo
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Scott McTominay
Since debuting in 2017 Scott McTominay’s influence has steadily grown at his boyhood club. The Scot’s versatility threatens to hold him back, but this could be his season to shine.
The midfielder is now 24 years old and established, having played a key role last season with 49 appearances. He’s a manager’s dream, switching happily between holding midfield at Old Trafford and centre-back with Scotland.
McTominay was a stand-out performer in the 5-1 thrashing of Leeds, and could find Varane has lifted some of the defensive pressure lifted from his shoulders when he returns from groin surgery.
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Fred
Error-prone and unreliable last season, Fred’s 2021-22 campaign has started in similarly worrying fashion.
The midfielder was told to ‘wake up’ by Rio Ferdinand on Twitter during the game against Wolves, a familiar demand aimed at the Brazilian.
Fred isn’t the long-term answer for United, who have targeted Rennes’ Edouardo Camavinga to replace him, but Solskjaer looks set to rely on him once more this season.
Their performance off the ball against Wolves demonstrated why Fred and Paul Pogba can’t be paired up in the deeper roles, and the Brazilian will badly need McTominay’s defensive discipline alongside.
Fred will need to raise his game to match the new higher standards at United this season
RIGHT WING: Mason Greenwood
How do you displace a 19-year-old wonderkid who has three goals from three games at the start of a Premier League season? Well, with one of the all-time great footballers.
Mason Greenwood is the future of Manchester United but now Cristiano Ronaldo is the present, and there’s no chance the teenager will start at centre-forward ahead of the Portuguese icon.
Greenwood played 22 matches on the right for United last season, bagging 10 goals. He’ll take his chances up top when he can, but in the meantime Solskjaer will surely instruct Greenwood to watch and learn.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD: Bruno Fernandes
Few players have replicated the transformative impact Bruno Fernandes has had at United down the club’s rich history, but the midfielder’s new team-mate is one.
Although an exhausted Fernandes couldn’t muster the energy to link up effectively with Ronaldo at Euro 2020 after a draining season, the pair are undoubtedly on the same wavelength.
Their gritty desperation for goals and glory and the sky-high standards they place onto team-mates will make them a formidable duo in the dressing room. On the pitch, it could make for a destructive partnership.
Who takes the penalties, though?
LEFT WING: Paul Pogba
What to do with Paul Pogba? The Frenchman has constantly wavered from staying to going since his £89m move in 2016, and besides flashes of pure magic he has yet to justify that former world-record fee.
Now could be the time, but first Solskjaer must set him free. Despite his size, strength and vision Pogba is wasted in a holding role alongside Fred.
The way Adama Traore and Wolves tore through United’s midfield on Saturday should serve as a warning.
Pogba’s masterclass against Leeds – notching four assists – proved he can thrive up in attack alongside Fernandes.
Paul Pogba needs to be creative further up the pitch for United to get the best of the star
CENTRE FORWARD: Cristiano Ronaldo
A different Ronaldo to the one who last set this league alight is coming back to Old Trafford. But regardless, CR7 guarantees goals.
The Portuguese legend was a full-back’s nightmare when he played out wide in the noughties but gets around the pitch significantly less now.
The 36-year-old will take up a central position and wait for the likes of Fernandes or Pogba to work their magic before finishing with his usual ruthless efficiency.
United whipped plenty of balls into the box last season from Shaw’s left flank, and Ronaldo will be waiting to build on his 84 Premier League goals.
Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo could strike up a deadly all-Portuguese partnership
Dean Henderson – So unlucky to miss out on Euro 2020 and his chance to displace De Gea this season. Once fit, he’ll be ready to pounce if the Spaniard slips up again.
Anthony Martial – It’s hard to see a future for the Frenchman at United with Ronaldo, Greenwood, Rashford and Cavani to battle. Has been linked with a move away.
Jadon Sancho – The £73m man has been almost forgotten since Ronaldo’s arrival. Pressure is on when he gets chances ahead of Greenwood.
Jesse Lingard – After a stunning loan spell with West Ham during the second half of last season, United opted to keep the midfielder rather than cashing in. Rejuvenated and determined, expect to see Lingard make an impact from the bench.
Jadon Sancho cost a whopping £73m but could struggle to make the team at times
Jesse Lingard returns from his loan spell at West Ham aiming to get himself back in the team
Edinson Cavani – Another massive name in United’s star-studded dressing room, Cavani will provide the perfect back-up for what is likely his final year in England.
Victor Lindelof – Never quite gelled with Maguire, and the new centre-back partnership will be a relief to Solskjaer. Lindelof will get chances to step in during a packed season though.
Donny van de Beek – Could never win Solskjaer round last season after his £40million move and needs a big turnaround to make the transfer a success.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article