Man Utd have agreed a deal to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford from Juventus; Keane: 'There's no doubt in my mind he's still a world-class player'; Graeme Souness and Gary Neville also give verdict
Sunday 29 August 2021 20:14, UK
Roy Keane has admitted his excitement at Cristiano Ronaldo's impending return to Manchester United, even if he believes the club still has work to do in other areas to make them real title contenders.
United confirmed on Friday that they had reached an agreement with Juventus for a sensational Ronaldo reunion, with the Portugal captain set to undergo a medical in Lisbon over the weekend before signing a two-year contract.
Asked if he had been swept along by 'Ronaldo-mania', Keane said on Sky Sports' Super Sunday: "Yes, I have. I think it's great news for United, the fans, the Premier League.
"There's no doubt in my mind he's still a world-class player. We have discussed the pluses and minuses but I see the hunger and the desire there; it's not a pay-day for him. He is already worth fortunes. We saw at the Euros he won the Golden Boot, he'll have the incentive of the World Cup.
"He's a clever guy. He's coming back to United to win stuff. I don't think he'll be the difference in terms of winning the big trophies - Man Utd still have the same problems with or without Ronaldo and that's midfield - but an FA Cup or a League Cup is more than possible.
"He'll want more than that. He'll bring a winning mentality to the dressing room, he's a fitness freak and I think he's one of the most intelligent players I've seen in my life. He's adapted his game and he's a winner.
"Forget the idea that he's going through the motions; he came to Man Utd initially because he wanted to win stuff. He's a born winner, he doesn't want to relax. Young players need that example. It's priceless.
"I see a lot of pluses and he's going to make them better, of course, but in terms of the bigger picture, I still don't think Man Utd are ready to win the title. I don't think they're going to close the gap all of a sudden."
Keane's fellow Super Sunday pundit, Graeme Souness, also believes Ronaldo will boost his team-mates off the field as well as on it, and thinks the evergreen forward can make a difference to United's Premier League chances.
"There has got to be question marks - he's 37 next February. First of all, there's an argument for him and Lionel Messi being the greatest players ever; people have had that ability but not the longevity.
"I think he's courageous in coming back to Man Utd at this time because he's coming back to a league that always surprises foreign players in terms of its physicality and intensity, but he knows all that.
"For Man Utd, it's good news. I believe there are players in that dressing room that need him; who need to up their game. What an example to have.
"I think he will get goals against the 'lesser teams'. He no longer has the same athleticism - to look at him, you'd think not but it will have. But he no longer plays much wider than the box. And what won't have left him is that cleverness, that anticipation, and then the technique.
"Last season United were dropping points at home against the lesser teams. I don't see that happening with him in the team.
"In terms of the bigger picture, there has to be reservations because of his age but they have just signed the ultimate pro. I see United challenging with him in the team. I see him making a difference, I really do."
Gary Neville says Manchester United are still third favourites for the Premier League title, despite re-signing Ronaldo.
Neville echoed Keane's sentiments in terms of United's overall Premier League chances and believes the strength of Manchester City and Champions League holders Chelsea - who held out with 10-men against Liverpool on Saturday - makes this one of the toughest titles to win in recent years.
"The Premier League is at the highest standard it has been for a long, long time," Neville told Sky Sports. "The Premier League has got back to the top level in Europe and Manchester United are up against really good sides.
"In years gone by, I might have said this Manchester United side would have won the Premier League by 10 points but it's such a strong Premier League this one.
"I made the prediction on Monday Night Football that it would [finish] Manchester City, Chelsea and [then] Manchester United and I'm not going to change that because I don't think the Ronaldo signing makes them a better team than Chelsea, who were the Champions League winners last season, and Manchester City, who were 20 points clear.
"Absolutely it brings them closer to winning the title. Do I think they will win the title at this point? No I don't. But now I'm more excited about Manchester United challenging for the title than I was maybe five or six days ago.
"Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane will have the mentality to win the title. I'm desperate for them to win the title. But do I think they'll win the title this season? No. I'm just being pragmatic.
"You have to be in for these players if you're Manchester United. Whether that wins you the title or not, I'm unsure. It gives them a far better chance than they had 48 hours ago."
Whether Ronaldo can inspire United to the Premier League crown or not, Neville is certain the Portuguese will raise the standards in the club - as well as scoring lots of goals this season.
"It's a short-term measure, as is Edinson Cavani," said Neville. "They can't get one of these top strikers; Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku were never going to come to Old Trafford this summer. So I think they needed it because they haven't got a 25-30 goal a season striker.
"Ronaldo gives you a guarantee of goals and he'll make the whole place be electric for the next few months. The standards he should set in that dressing room, the way in which he should influence those younger players… there are some younger players who need some really good standards putting into them.
"They've now got one of the greatest football players of all time, who will do every single thing right, on and off the pitch. They'll have nowhere to go in respect of their professionalism, work ethic.
"He's not the player he was. He was a dynamic, running player 12 years ago. He's now going to be a box player, he's going to make brilliant movements in and around the box to score goals. But there are enough legs in that team around him that will enable him to stand up there and do what he does best in this period of his career.
"He hasn't come for Champions League places. He's come for personal accolades and titles. I hope he can be the difference. Because if he can get 10 per cent out of every other player, there's a big chance.
"But let's be clear: Man City have been exceptional for the last three, four seasons. Chelsea have just won the Champions League and now have a better team this season. So they're up against the best three teams in Europe, if you count Liverpool over the last three or four years."
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