MANCHESTER UNITED fans woke up to a nightmare and went to bed in dreamland.
Yesterday morning, they feared the worse as rivals City were stepping up their bid to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Manchester.
Cristiano Ronaldo is on the verge of returning to Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s return to Old Trafford has capped off a phenomenal transfer window for UnitedCredit: Getty
The Portuguese will be aiming to fire the Red Devils to their first league title in eight yearsCredit: EPA But at lunchtime, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer publicly made his play and the legend was heading back to Old Trafford.
Just before 5pm it was done and dusted.
This is what Ronaldo had always wanted at some point in his career – to come back to the Theatre of Dreams.
His mind was made up on that after his first return to Old Trafford having departed for Real Madrid.
The deafening reception was like nothing heard before for a player returning to his old club.
It also convinced an emotional Ronaldo that he had to come back and wear the red shirt again at some stage.
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It was March 2013, four years after he left for Real Madrid as he returned for a Champions League clash.
Normally before kick-off, United’s man on the microphone Alan Keegan would read out the away team first in a very understated way.
This time, manager Sir Alex Ferguson told him to switch it and make sure he timed it so that Ronaldo’s name was read out last just before the first whistle.
He did it sounding like Michael Buffer before a world title boxing fight and the noise was deafening, the whistle could not be heard and Ronaldo’s emotions were all over the place.
He barely figured in the first half but recovered his composure to score the all-important second Real goal to win the game 2-1 and put them through 3-2 on aggregate.
He was apologetic in front of the United fans after sneaking in at the far post to score.
Cristiano Ronaldo refrained from celebrating after scoring on his return to Old TraffordCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd But his heartstrings had been tugged.
If Ferguson hadn’t announced his retirement at the end of that season, there is every chance he would have made the return then.
He was back again in 2018 with Juventus and the reception was warm once again. He tapped his chest where his heart is to show the fans a place was still there for them.
Now he is pulling the United shirt back on after a transfer that one lifelong fans excitedly described as ‘mindblowing’.
The relationship between Sir Alex and Ronaldo has always remained strong.
Witness their embrace after Sir Alex sought him out as he came down the steps of the Stade de France having lifted the Henri Delauney Trophy for winning Euro 2016 with Portugal.
Cristiano Ronaldo embraces Sir Alex Ferguson after the Euro 2016 finalCredit: Getty He turned the one-trick pony with a step over into a footballing thoroughbred.
He has been a father figure to him as he was to so many of his charges. So when the call went into him yesterday morning to encourage him to ignore Manchester City’s overtures and come back to Old Trafford, it was job done.
The reception he will get if he walks out to face Newcastle at Old Trafford a fortnight today will be something. Steve Bruce must be thinking: Why me?
A gap of 12 years since leaving a club would normally put a player well past his sell-by date, but this is a 36-year-old going on 26 such is his devotion to his physique and health.
He will score for United, he will win for United and he could even bring the title back this season, he is still that good.
The mind boggles at what he has achieved. His 118 goals in 292 games with United earning him eight major honours.
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He was seemingly in the twilight years of his career at Juventus but still hit 28, 37 and 36 in the last three seasons.
Where will he fit in at United? Anywhere he likes. Right, left, No 10, No 9.
He is a scorer of spectacular goals. A poacher supreme. He’s like Michael Jordan in the air. He is a footballing machine.
What a summer of business – Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and now Ronaldo added to a squad that came second in the Premier League last season.
It has proved they are back, big time.
Plenty has changed since Ronaldo was last here, unfortunately not the weather which this sun worshipper used to lament about.
The club are no longer the dominant force he left behind, without a title now for eight years.
Now he could he just change all that and with it write the most astonishing chapter in his incredible football story.
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Cristiano Ronaldo signs for Man Utd as Old Trafford legend completes sensational transfer return from Juventus