Three little words have given optimistic Manchester United fans hope that Cristiano Ronaldo could one day grace Old Trafford again on a regular basis.
“You never know,” replied the Real Madrid goal machine on Tuesday night when quizzed on rumours linking him with a return to the club that transformed him from a petulant teenager into a global superstar.
The only galling part for the United faithful is that this glimmer of hope came after Ronaldo’s predatory strike dumped Sir Alex Ferguson’s men out of the UEFA Champions League in controversial circumstances.
Not even the ramifications of Ronaldo’s second goal against United in the space of a fortnight could put a dent in his standing as a club legend.
The Stretford End idolise Ronaldo. United supporters chant about him at every game. They realise just what a special talent the one-time FIFA World Player of the Year is. The 28-year-old is a one-off.
There will be a statue of him erected outside Old Trafford after he hangs up his boots. That’s virtually a given after he helped United win the Champions League in 2008 as well three Premier League titles, the League Cup twice and an FA Cup.
Yet there’s a growing feeling that Ronaldo could re-join United, possibly in the summer, and here are five reasons why the Red Devils should do everything they can to tempt him back.
#1 Ronaldo seems up for it (sort of)
Okay, Ronaldo’s “you never know” comment is hardly proof that he is about to waltz into Jose Mourinho’s office at the Bernabeu and hand in a transfer request.
United, though, are one of only a handful of clubs who can satisfy his lofty wage demands, afford to sign him as well offer him a challenging environment to continue his already trophy-laden career. The humility that Ronaldo showed on his first return to Old Trafford in midweek when he was given a rapturous reception would suggest there’s no way he could join another English team.
The chance to further etch his name into United folklore by silencing the noisy neighbours could appeal. Manchester City finished 40 points behind United in Ronaldo’s final season before leaving for Spain. How times have changed.
#2 A Ronaldo/RVP partnership is a tantalising prospect
Here’s a stat that should be enough to prompt United’s owners to dig out the chequebook: Ronaldo and Robin van Persie have scored 65 goals between them this season for club and country. Ronaldo has reached the 40-goal barrier in each of the last three seasons.
Just imagine pairing them together. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck would also benefit from Ronaldo’s return, particularly the latter.
#3 Ronaldo is the final piece in Ferguson’s retirement jigsaw
It has become pretty obvious that Ferguson only wants to retire after delivering a third European Cup of his amazing reign to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.
United’s current crop, though, lack that special player needed to go all the way. As good as Van Persie and Rooney are, they don’t quite possess the same talismanic qualities as Ronaldo.
Sign Ronaldo and United will conquer Europe, leaving Ferguson to enjoy the fairy-tale finish he deserves.
#4 The Premier League needs Ronaldo
There are many world-class players in the Premier League, but there are none quite like Ronaldo. Ronaldo is an extraordinary talent and he has become even better since he swapped Manchester for Madrid.
Both United and City – the Premier League’s top two – have blown hot and cold this season. The Premier League needs a player like Ronaldo to raise standards.
#5 Ronaldo needs a new challenge
Ronaldo’s four seasons at Madrid have seen him duel on a weekly basis with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, score 186 goals in 185 games, win La Liga and possibly win the Champions League again this term.
Should Mourinho leave Madrid in the summer, possibly even to United, then it could prompt Ronaldo to consider his future in Spain. While the likes of Paris Saint Germain can afford to sign Ronaldo, could you really see him playing in France? Or Italy?
If Ronaldo leaves Madrid, the smart money would be on him coming back to England. The Premier League suits Ronaldo. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s extremely competitive.
City’s transformation from mid-table mediocrity to title contenders has shifted the balance of power in the Premier League and Ronaldo may view that as his next challenge after stopping Barca’s dominance.
Do you think Ronaldo will be back at United before the start of next season?