Ole discusses Ronaldo debut
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Manchester United insist it was never part of their plans to sign a central midfielder in the summer transfer window after snubbing a move for Wolves’ Ruben Neves and with Saul Niguez to join Chelsea.
The Red Devils have been linked with a whole host of midfielders including the pair and also West Ham holder Declan Rice.
Yet United say it was never a priority for them to recruit in the middle of the park, having instead focused on recruiting at right wing and in central defence.
They achieved those objectives by landing Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, with the England international also capable of playing on the left or as a No 10, and signing Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane.
The Daily Mirror say Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff wanted to concentrate on getting those two positions strengthened ahead of pursuing a new holding midfielder.
United also secured an impromptu deal to re-sign club legend Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus with the Portuguese’s return officially announced on Tuesday.
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The 36-year-old has signed a two-year contract worth a Premier League-best £500,000 a week and was not a part of United’s plans going into the window.
Yet the club launched a late move after learning of the possibility of one of their best ever players joining neighbours and title rivals Manchester City instead.
Once United got involved, Ronaldo’s next club was clear with an initial £12.8m fee agreed to take their initial summer expenditure to around £120m.
Yet despite spending big on fees and salaries to bring in Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo – also bringing in Tom Heaton as a back-up goalkeeper – United say they never seriously targeted a midfielder despite having only Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic as senior options in the defensive midfield role in Solskjaer’s 4-2-3-1 set-up.
The Mirror say that those closely involved in United’s summer business say their strategy was focused on “priorities and building over multiple windows” and that forking out on a midfielder was “never the plan”.
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That’s despite lengthy links to Wolves’ Portuguese midfielder Neves and also to Atletico Madrid’s Saul, who agreed a deal to move to Chelsea on deadline day instead.
The Blues will sign the Spaniard on loan with a view to making the move permanent in 12 years’ time. If they do, the move including the loan fee will cost them around a total of £35m.
West Ham’s Rice has also been mentioned as a target but the Hammers’ £100m valuation of the widely-liked player meant no club launched a bid to sign him.
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United will hope that their renewed attacking and defensive strength can help ensure they play a greater role in this season’s title tussle.
Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool could all vie with Solskjaer and co. for the crown with United seeking a first league title since 2013, before Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Ronaldo meanwhile dropped a clear hint about the phone call he held with former manager Ferguson that helped engineer a return to United rather than a shock move to City.
He said in an emotional Instagram post on Tuesday: “Everyone who knows me, knows about my never ending love for Manchester United.
“The years I spent in this club were absolutely amazing and the path we’ve made together is written in gold letters in the history of this great and amazing institution.
“I can’t even start to explain my feelings right now, as I see my return to Old Trafford announced worldwide.
“It’s like a dream come true, after all the times that I went back to play against Man United, and even as an opponent, to have always felt such love and respect from the supporters in the stands.
“This is absolutely 100 per cent the stuff that dreams are made of!
“My first domestic league, my first cup, my first call to the Portuguese National team, my first Champions League, my first Golden Boot and my first Ballon d’Or, they were all born from this special connection between me and the Red Devils.
“History has been written in the past and history will be written once again! You have my word!
“I’m right here! I’m back where I belong! Let’s make it happen once again! P.S – Sir Alex, this one is for you…”
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