Soccer, like most sports, goes through cycles. Teams will dominate for a period, winning everything in sight, looking like they will go on being victorious for the rest of time. However, inevitably something changes, a key player or manager departs, and slowly the good times come to an end.
If we travel to Spain, we can look at the example of FC Barcelona. From 2008 to 2021, they were one of the most formidable sides in Europe. They won La Liga eight times, the Copa del Rey seven times, and the Champions League three times. They had amazing players like Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Neymar, and some of the world’s best coaches, like Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique. They seemed unstoppable. However, slowly over time, players either retired or moved onto new clubs, while the coaches either headed abroad or were fired, and the good times came to an end. Now, they are over €1 billion in debt and look like a team going backwards. It’s hard to believe, but it might be some years before Barcelona are a major force again.
Similarly in Italy, AC Milan had a period in the 1990s where they looked unstoppable. They won Serie A five times and picked up the Champions League in 1990 and 1994. But like Barcelona, their time at the top ended, and they haven’t gotten close to winning the Italian league for many seasons.
Manchester United would be a perfect example of this in England. Under their infamous manager Sir Alex Ferguson, they were a title-winning machine for over twenty years. Under the Scot, they picked up 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups and two Champions League titles (missing out in two other finals during his spell as well). Other sides might challenge them for a period, including Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, but no one could keep up with Ferguson and his boys.
Sadly for United fans, Sir Alex couldn’t go on forever, and in 2013 he decided to retire. The Red Devils knew the next year or two wouldn’t be easy without him, but, eight years later, they have yet to pick up another title. They have won a few smaller trophies, but the Premier League and Champions League have eluded them.
As Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea have looked much better than United for the last few years, their fans must have been wondering if they’d ever get another shot at glory. Thankfully for them, one man arrived at the club who could change everything for them. Cristiano Ronaldo. With his arrival, United fans are confident again for the first time in years, feeling they could now be back with a shot at the big time. If we look at the latest EPL odds on some of the top sports betting apps, the bookies certainly believe United have a great chance, and might even be favourites. However, is Ronaldo alone going to make the difference?
Goals win you games
While CR7 is not getting any older, one thing he is still world-class at is scoring goals. His last three seasons in Italy, where it is famously harder to score, saw him hit 21, 31 and 29 goals. If he can get anywhere near to those figures now he’s back playing in United red, then they stand a very good chance of winning their first title since 2013.
Passion and professionalism
Another massive asset that Ronaldo brings to his teams is his desire to win. He is so determined and passionate about winning, that he will push himself in every game to make sure he ends up on the winning side. Not just that, but he also takes incredible care of his body. He has long been rumoured to be the healthiest player in the game, keeping himself in perfect physical condition, to help elongate his career. The younger players in the United team, like Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho will surely be inspired by this and will look to do everything they can do to help United win the title this year.
Other rivals possibly distracted?
It does look to be a very competitive league this year, with Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool looking like they could win it, as well as United. City will be gunning for the Champions League, so could well focus on that instead of the Premier League. Chelsea are one Romelu Lukaku injury away from having to change their entire set-up, while Liverpool are probably a slightly faded force from the side of two years ago.
Getting Ronaldo in was key for United, but they’d built a potent attacking force even before he arrived, with the likes of Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Edison Cavani and Rashford looking lethal at times last year, Now, with CR7 amongst their ranks, this could well be the year they push on, and claim their first Premier League title in eight seasons.