Manchester United are still two matches away from wrapping up their championship season, but it already feels like the offseason. Major changes are underway at Old Trafford and a developing storyline is whether the return of Cristiano Ronaldo is on the horizon.
A wild couple of days have ensued for United, starting with the announcement that longtime manager Sir Alex Ferguson would be leaving his post after the season. The Red Devils moved quickly to replace him, inking Everton boss David Moyes to a six-year deal, as reported by ESPN.
At the same time, Neil Ashton, Ian Ladyman and Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail reported United are in talks to bring Ronaldo back to the club. Chief executive David Gill is apparently meeting with Jorge Mendes, the winger's agent, and are increasingly confident a deal can be reached.
Sources on Wednesday night insisted the Barclays Premier League champions are confident of securing the return of the player they sold to Real Madrid for a world record £80 million in 2009.
A Ronaldo return would be a massive statement by United and could serve as the ultimate welcoming gift for Moyes as he prepares for the toughest challenge of his career. The goal-scoring phenom found the net 118 times in his first stint with the club.
Putting him in a lineup alongside Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney is something Premier League defenders are probably dreading, even just thinking about the possibility. Rooney's future is also unclear, but the Daily Mail report suggests a Ronaldo deal could very well convince him to stay.
The dynamic attacking trio would also make United serious contenders in the Champions League. They were eliminated by Ronaldo's Real Madrid squad in the Round of 16 this season.
An Old Trafford reunion is far from a guarantee, though. Real assistant manager Aitor Karanka is already warning Ronaldo about a potential exit from the club, according to the BBC.
The 28-year-old has been linked with a summer return to Manchester United, but Karanka insists that Ronaldo and Madrid are "good for each other".
"He will keep getting better. Here is the ideal place and for Real Madrid it is great to have him," said Karanka.
Ronaldo made an apparent statement of his own after scoring the second goal in the Blancos' 6-2 romp over Malaga. Richard Arrowsmith of the Daily Mirror stated the reaction suggests he isn't planning to leave the Spanish side.
The Portuguese winger scored a close-range free-kick during Los Blancos' 6-2 victory over Malaga before running to the crowd screaming ‘Yo aqui, you aqui’, which translates to ‘I’m here, I’m here' - suggesting he isn't leaving the Bernabeu.
In other terms, the story is far from over. The wild finish to United's season seems likely to carry over to the summer, when Moyes will officially take control of the club and a new era will begin. Matching the standard set by Ferguson is virtually impossible.
That said, adding Ronaldo to the mix would allow the new boss to hit the ground running and put United on track for a huge 2013-14 season. Stay tuned.