From the moment he took the reins at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s mission was clear: to restore the trophy-laden glory days of a not-too-distant past.
A trophy of any kind would have been enough in the Norwegian’s first two seasons, but have expectations increased following arguably United’s most successful transfer window in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era to include only the biggest prizes on offer?
United’s deal this summer – as to his credit throughout Solskjaer’s reign – has been smart. The signings of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane addressed and ameliorated key deficiencies in the first-team squad, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational return from Juventus to Old Trafford was the icing on the cake.
Man Utd: Ins
Man utd: outs
Manchester United have just started their fifth season since they last got their hands on a trophy. For a club of this size it is a failure to go through a single season without a trophy. It would be a crisis if things continued after the recruitment offensive this summer.
If you look elsewhere in the Premier League, the unanimous reaction to Romelu Lukaku’s return to Stamford Bridge has put Chelsea in the battle for the title. Many even think that Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League winner could be the team that can beat this season.
If so, what does United’s takeover of Ronaldo mean for their title chances? After all, the Portuguese scored 29 goals in Serie A last season, five more than Lukaku when he led the Belgian to the Golden Boot in the Italian premier league.
A similar argument can be made when it comes to United’s arrest of Varane. The world champion and four-time Champions League winner comes with proven ancestry and, above all, the know-how in dealing with a level of expectation at Real Madrid that can keep up with the expectations he now has in Manchester.
Carragher: “It’s time for United to fight for the title”
For Sky Sports expert Jamie Carragher, United is overdue a title challenge eight years old since their last championship – and Ronaldo et al. could make all the difference.
“Forget Ronaldo’s age and name. We’re talking about the man who was the top scorer in Serie A last season. So this is the one who signed United so it should make a big difference to them,” he said.
“And they have added other players in other areas too, so it is time United started fighting to bring that title back to Old Trafford.”
It is clear that the time has come for United to get back to silverware. The question is, with Solskjaer Ronaldo, Sancho and Varane available, will that drought end this season?
And, perhaps more importantly, would an FA Cup or League Cup triumph be enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite for success that swirls around Old Trafford?
Merson: “Man Utd have to win the league”
Sky Sports expert Paul Merson believes the arrival of Ronaldo means the Premier League is the only cutlery that will be enough for Solskjaer and Manchester United.
“Will Manchester United win the league? That’s the fairy tale,” he told Sky Sports News. “There’s no point in Ronaldo going back to Old Trafford and winning the Golden Shoe, it’s just about winning the league.
“Solskjaer runs the biggest club in the world of football, the pressure is high all the time. You have to win the league. Bringing Ronaldo, one of the two best players in world football for some time, has to be” to win the league. Please don’t tell me they’re going to get him to sell jerseys.
“Who will win the league for you: Ronaldo or Harry Kane? For me it’s Kane. When I’m the manager of a football club, I need players to win the title and I’m not sure if Ronaldo is one. “
Redknapp: “Sleepless nights for Solskjaer who has to win something”
It was easy for Manchester United to get deals for Ronaldo, Varane and Sancho on the line.
The challenge of agreeing on a formula that harnesses the wealth of Solskjaer’s talents while maintaining United’s challenge for the trophies is the task that has already started and will ultimately determine the success of the campaign.
Whether it’s the Premier League, the Champions League, or a national cup, according to Jamie Redknapp, Solskjaer needs to get his hands on a trophy of all kinds, and his ability to keep his high-profile squad involved and engaged could prove to be part of that prove crucial ambition is realized.
“How will Ole accommodate Ronaldo?” said the Sky Sports expert. “United now have five players to play on that front. Ronaldo can only play as a center forward at his age.
“So where does Edinson Cavani fit in? Where does Marcus Rashford fit in? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does such a great job of making everyone happy and that brings enormous pressure.
“Now that he hasn’t won anything at Manchester United as a manager, he has to win something. Excited as Ole is, he will have many sleepless nights trying to make everyone happy.”
While the debate about what makes Manchester United so successful this season continues, it is undeniable that the clear, calculated change in the club’s transfer policy gave Solskjaer all the tools he needed to succeed.
Whether Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup or League Cup, the stage is Solskjaer. Now it’s up to him to show what he can do with it.