Longtime Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand thought there was a chance the club could bring back Cristiano Ronaldo over the summer. He did everything in his power to convince the superstar forward to make a return, but it didn't work out.
Now, as United look up at six other clubs in the Premier League table and see their chances of a repeat fading, the failed efforts to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford loom large. He represents the difference-making player the club wasn't able to find during the summer window.
David Anderson of the Daily Mirror passed along the comments from Ferdinand, who said he was in constant contact with the dynamic Real Madrid attacker and believed that United would have been his choice if he decided to leave the Spanish club:
As footballers you don’t really let on too much to each other. It’s like a chess game. And in those situations you have got your one and two first-choice moves or scenarios that you want to happen. So to let people know is sort of letting the cat out of the bag. You play your cards close to your chest.
But if he was going to leave Real Madrid, I think Manchester United would have been the place he would have come to. That’s my personal view, but no-one will ever know now.
Ultimately, Ronaldo took everything into consideration, including the apparent pitches from his former teammate, and opted to stay with Los Blancos.
Ferdinand claims the opportunity came and went last summer, and it probably isn't coming back again. "I think the opportunity has gone now. If we could have done it, I think it would have been last summer. He's signed a new deal at Real now," he said.
Ferdinand doesn't mention how close Ronaldo came to making the switch, but it sure sounds like there was a glimmer of hope for United during David Moyes' first summer with the club.
Instead, Moyes and Co. were unable to acquire the game-changing attacking player they were seeking and ended up settling on Marouane Fellaini as their marquee addition. The former Everton midfielder is a solid player, but his impact has been minuscule compared to what Ronaldo would have provided.
The Portuguese international continues to dominate with Real Madrid, scoring at better than a goal-per-match rate, and could very well emerge as the Ballon d'Or winner for 2013.
By contrast, United are losers of three straight matches across a trio of competitions—the Premier League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup. They have scored exactly one goal in each of those three defeats as well as in a 1-0 triumph over Norwich, which immediately preceded the losing streak.
Ronaldo would have obviously been a major help for an attacking group that still hasn't found its stride with half the campaign gone. The Real sensation has continued to find the net at an unmatched rate in Europe, as OptaJoe pointed out:
38 - @Cristiano has scored the most goals in the top five European leagues in 2013. Monster.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 30, 2013
Old Trafford would be a much happier place right now if United had been able to pull off the coup for Ronaldo.
Will United be able to salvage the season in the second half?
Not only would they likely be in much better shape in terms of a repeat bid, but the hype surrounding their Champions League run would be higher and the pressure on Moyes, which continues to mount, would be far lower.
Ferdinand, who at 35 knows the number of trophy chases he has left is beginning to dwindle, did everything he could to bring Ronaldo back. For whatever reason, it didn't happen and the concerns raised by supporters over the summer have become reality.
With each passing loss, the absence of Ronaldo—or any another potential top-tier attacking addition for that matter—looms even larger. United could attempt to rectify the situation with a January signing, but it won't be easy to find a high-impact player in the middle of the campaign.
A Ronaldo return would have revitalized the squad, but as Ferdinand admits, it appears that ship has officially sailed.