With Cristiano Ronaldo now pushing for a move three weeks on, one journalist has claimed Man United pulled out of the Darwin Nunez race due to their No. 9.
When Liverpool completed their £85 million deal with Benfica for Nunez, it stood as a statement signing; a club-record transfer in the wake of Erling Haaland’s move to Man City.
In the shadows for both deals were Man United, who held interest in the pair but were unable to compete with their long-standing rivals.
That is a testament to their fall from the pinnacle of English football and the faded lure of Old Trafford, but also the club’s continually poor planning and business acumen.
Less than a year ago, United announced the re-signing of Ronaldo from Juventus in a deal worth up to £19.8 million, confirming his arrival with the headline ‘Ronaldo is coming home’ while fans flocked to buy his No. 7 shirt.
The hysteria in Manchester was met with ridicule everywhere else, as the lack of any cohesive plan was laid clear to rival supporters.
Ronaldo scored 24 goals in his comeback season but was undeniably central to the disjointed system under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, with United finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Now, with a season in the Europa League ahead, Ronaldo has informed United that he intends to leave if the right offer is made – with The Athletic‘s David Ornstein now reporting that Chelsea‘s new owners are considering a bid for the 37-year-old.
And incredibly, Ornstein’s colleague Laurie Whitwell has claimed that United “have been working on belief Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at [the] club for 2022/23, hence leaving Liverpool to Darwin Nunez.”
Of course, the notion of simply stepping aside for Liverpool is a laughable one given the respective positions of the two clubs.
But if that is to be believed, United were happy to head into the new campaign under Erik ten Hag with an ill-fitting, ageing Ronaldo as the focal point of their attack for another year.
They would, therefore, have effectively turned down the opportunity to sign two strikers at the forefront of the new era of European football – the 23-year-old Nunez and the 21-year-old Haaland – in order to double down on a player who turns 38 in February.
Part of that may be due to the astronomical £500,000-a-week wage Ronaldo commands in Manchester and the belief that few other clubs would be willing to match that – with potential suitors Bayern Munich, PSG and Napoli already ruled out.
Either way, it only further uncovers the ongoing mess that is Man United.