Manchester United sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a world record 80 million pounds. That was a poor decision that will come back to haunt United for next season and possibly longer.
Many will point out that Manchester United and Sir Alex have sold their best players before and have always recovered. However, the main thing to note is that those players were past their prime.
Cristiano Ronaldo just turned 24 and is entering the prime of his career. He was on pace to break every single Manchester and possibly English scoring record. Certainly there is no one player in the world that Sir Alex can bring in to replace Cristiano.
Many United fans will argue that Wayne Rooney will step up in the absence of Ronaldo. Others note that United will spend the 80 million wisely to bring in replacements. United fans are dismissing this monumental transfer as a good thing while the rest of the Premier League rejoices. The best player in the league is headed for the Spanish capital, and no team gets better after they sell the best player in the world.
Cesc Fabregas has branded Manchester United a "one-man team" and said that Ronaldo won the last two leagues on his own. While that is certainly an incorrect statement, it just highlights the views of many in England that Manchester United will not be able to replace the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year.
Much like Fabregas and the entire Liverpool team, I do not envision any way in which Manchester United can successfully defend their Premier League title no matter who they bring in this summer, and United fans can certainly forget winning the Champions League. After all, Ronaldo was the reason United slid by Porto and beat Arsenal.
First, I need to mention what Ronaldo has meant statistically to Manchester United. In the last three years, he combined to score 91 goals in all competitions.
Over his career, he has represented 28 percent of all Manchester United goals. He has scored more goals than Wayne Rooney or any other United player in the last 3 seasons.
Whether it be Franck Ribery, Antonio Valencia, or Karim Benzema, is it logical assume that a player or group of players can come in and make that kind of impact? Foreign players usually take time to adjust to the Premier League so it would be difficult for United to bring in someone and instantly expect them to succeed. Even Dimitar Berbatov, who finished 4th in the league in scoring in his last season at Spurs, came in and was awful in his first season.
As for the theory that United fans hold that Rooney will step up to replace Ronaldo. Here is where I do not think that United fans appreciated what Ronaldo did.
He made the dazzling runs that mesmerized Premier League defenders that Rooney is certainly not capable of. During the span of one game, I dare anyone to list one footballer that runs more. One of the most underrated parts of Ronaldo's game is ability to run without the ball.
The perfect example would be in the Champions League semi-final vs. Arsenal when Ronaldo ran the entire length of the field to finish a pass. Rooney is not as physically gifted as Ronaldo, and there is no possible way he can do what Ronaldo does on the pitch in terms of running.
Over the last two seasons, Ronaldo has drawn double and triple teams when he has the ball which as created more offensive opportunities for Tevezand, especially Rooney. Rooney is not capable of drawing the same kind of defensive attention as Ronaldo because he does not have the same ability to blow by defenders.
I think it needs to be noted that Cristiano Ronaldo was absent for the first two months of this Premier League season and he still finished one goal behind Anelka, despite the fact that when Ronaldo played his first game, Anelka already had 11 goals.
But the most important part of Ronaldo's absence was the fact that United had lost their identity while he was on the bench. Their offense was abysmal, and they were struggling to keep pace with the top of the Premier League.
Is it any coincidence that when Ronaldo came back he scored against Bolton and United went on an 18-game unbeaten run? Even the most anti-Ronaldo of United fans will not disagree that he has been the main reason behind United's success.
The clutch factor is another reason they will miss Cristiano.
Ronaldo scored against Chelsea in the Champions League final last season.
He scored the miraculous 40-yard goal against Porto in which United desperately needed to score to advance.
He scored or assisted in all three of United's goals vs. Arsenal.
The point that needs to noted is that when United needed a goal, it was not Rooney, it was not Tevez, it was not Berbatov. It was Cristiano Ronaldo who showed up. No matter which player Ferguson brings in, it will be impossible to replace the clutch factor of Ronaldo.
Many will argue that Ronaldo was not as clutch as he could have been. But another point that needs to be taken into account would be his ability to destroy the lesser clubs that United expects to beat.
Who will be taking the free kicks for Manchester United? I cannot remember the last time anyone not named Ronaldo has made a free kick for United. He is the best free kick taker in the world and United have been reaping the benefits of it.
However, the goals that his free kicks produce are not the most important benefit. When a Manchester United player is running with the ball near the box, you have to know that a defender will be thinking long and hard about fouling the player because he knows who takes the free kicks. There will be less hesitation among defenders to take down United players knowing that their free-kick taker will not be as dangerous.
Fear is another reason United will be missing Cristiano Ronaldo. Ask any Premier League defender who the last person in the league they want to see running at them with the ball is. I guarantee you that nine out of 10 will say Ronaldo.
He can turn on a dime and score from anywhere on the pitch. There is no replacement that can do that. Ronaldo strikes much more fear into the heart of Premier League defenses than Wayne Rooney or any other United player.
Ask any keeper in the league who is the last player they want taking a free kick. I guarantee you that all of them say Cristiano Ronaldo.
Anti-Ronaldo fans will argue that his attitude toward the end of the season suggests that his heart was not in the game. I do not think there is a more ridiculous statement.
Ronaldo is the first player to practice and the last player to leave everyday. He puts more effort into a game than any other United player. United fans will argue that Rooney has more passion on the field, but I beg to differ.
Ronaldo does more running with the ball and without the ball during the course of a game than any other player on the team. He poured his heart into each game that is why he was so emotional.
Remember all of the times that Ronaldo attracted double teams? Well take all of that extra attention that Ronaldo had on offense and put it on Wayne Rooney.
Here is a man that has never score more than 16 goals in the league (four years ago). He will have a lot more pressure on him to be the main goal scoring that on a team where he has never needed to be the main scoring threat.
All of this brings me to how United can go about replacing the FIFA World Player of the Year.
Who are United going to bring in this summer? Signing Antonio Valencia seems like a matter of time and will cost 15 of the 80 million.
The rumors for Ribery say that he will cost United between 55-70 million. However, Ribery is a foreign player who has no experience in the Premier League. Besides, he has stated his intention to play in Spain or stay in Munich.
United have also been linked to Karim Benzema. I do believe that Benzema would be a wise signing because of his potential and ability to score in the Champions League. However, Madrid and Zidane are going after Benzema.
And Benzema is a young forward who is far from a sure thing. After all, if a proven Premier League player such as Berbatov cannot succeed, what makes people think that Benzema would?
The rumored bids for Fernando Torres, David Villa, and Iker Casillas are ridiculous and will not happen. Torres would never leave Liverpool for United, Villa has said he will go to Madrid, and Madrid would not let Casillas go.
Brazilian starlet Douglas Costa would be a very promising signing. However, as a frequent watcher of Gremio matches, I do not see any way Costa could come in and produce in the next 2 years. He is not even a regular starter for his Brazilian club so why would he come in and play for Manchester United?
There is no clear replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and that is the biggest reason why Ferguson should not have sold him. They will feel his absence strongly next season.
No player in the world can do for Manchester United what Cristiano Ronaldo has done over his career there. He deserves to be mentioned along the all-time United greats.
He brought them 3 straight league titles, its first Champions League title since 1999, and he is the first English player to ever win the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
As Sir Alex is 67 and headed toward the end of his career, I cannot picture a way in which he will be able to recapture the glory that Ronaldo has brought Manchester United. It will be a shame that he has to end his career by being a part of the biggest transfer in world football history and on the wrong side of it.
I wish United the best of luck next season, but they will soon realize that you don't know what you've had until it's gone.