Was Man United's pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo inevitable?

When the news broke, it was a massive story that resonated around the world. Cristiano Ronaldo had returned to Old Trafford to play for the club that helped mould him into a superstar. At first glance, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

In hindsight, United's transfer policy appears less effective, not least because the Portuguese superstar seems to be upsetting the apple cart. But was all this inevitable from the beginning? Were Manchester United fickle in their endeavour to get their main man back?

Building a Title Winning Squad

People forget that the Red Devils were considered title challengers at the beginning of August: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was at the wheel, United has finished second the campaign before, and everything looked rosy. Of course, the fans were never going to settle for second best.

Even if they did finish above Liverpool, they still ended the season behind champions and hometown rivals Manchester City by 12 points. Solskjaer's men won six fewer games, scored 10 fewer goals, and conceded 12 more goals than Man City. Ronaldo couldn't solve the leaky defence, but the prolific striker was destined to score regularly, allowing United to win more matches and close the gap.

The former Real Madrid and Juventus man fit the bill, not only because he was still performing impressively in his mid-30s, but because of his history with the club. Unfortunately, despite keeping his end of the bargain with eight goals, United's hierarchy has let him down, which might explain why he's quoted as saying in Marca, “I don't want to be here to be in sixth place, or seventh place.”

Blinking First

In a game of chicken, whoever blinks first loses. Sure, Man United isn't competing with Man City right now, not in terms of winning trophies, yet they are constantly being compared. And it kills United supporters to admit that Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff are doing a better job at the Etihad Stadium. So, they need to seize any opportunity when it arises, and Ronaldo looked to be the answer, for all intents and purposes.

Firstly, the media were almost guaranteeing that Ronaldo was on the way to City in a major coup for Guardiola. Therefore, United could turn the tables by grabbing him from under their noses. Secondly, the signing would appease the fans. Thirdly, the squad was essentially promised a boost since Ronaldo hasn't failed at any of his previous clubs.

The thing is, United seems to have jumped the gun. Yes, Ronaldo is scoring, but his figures are lower than normal. Then there's the body language, which is toxic. Players with no confidence can't feel good when he's throwing a strop every 90 minutes.

Plus, it's not as if United hasn't committed the same mistake previously i.e., Alexis Sanchez. A hugely successful forward at Arsenal, Sanchez almost went to Man City before United reportedly agreed to hand over a salary of £391,000-per-week. According to Bobbie Jackson, the Chilean turned out to be the third-biggest transfer flop in Premier League history, only being edged out by Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando Torres, even though Sanchez has a significantly smaller transfer tag.

Will Ronaldo go on to do the same? Only time will tell, but so far, the omens don't appear very healthy. It's certainly not the fanfare return that Ronaldo or the fans dreamed of when the deal was finalised.