On Friday, Cristiano Ronaldo looked set to join Manchester City in a move that would have changed the landscape of the Premier League and title race.
Within the space of 24 hours, football pundits had gone from questioning the goalscoring freak’s fit in Pep Guardiola’s systems to wondering how it all changed so quickly.
Ronaldo was understood to have even told a teammate at Juventus that he was expecting to join City but instead, he would be heading back to Old Trafford.
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The Telegraph described it as a “headspinning 24 hours… even by the standards of football transfers, which often defy all rational thought”.
United had already made necessary moves in the off-season, adding Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in a boost to its title ambitions.
The 36-year-old Ronaldo though will be yet another asset for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is spoiled by a wealth of attacking options.
Away from his impact on the field, this was also about getting one up on the rival.
The Athletic reports “all hell would have broken loose” had United missed out on Ronaldo and an iconic former manager was at the “heart” of the operation.
Here, foxsports.com.au takes you inside the manic 24 hours that sealed a homecoming of epic proportions and left City once again going back to the drawing board.
THE ‘MAJOR ROLE’ SIR ALEX FERGUSON PLAYED
While a host of past and current United players are said to have played a key part in securing Ronaldo’s signature, it was Sir Alex Ferguson who had a “major role” in the past 24 hours.
That is according to The Athletic, which reports that Ferguson is one of the few people in the world Ronaldo “still defers to”.
United first called Ronaldo on Friday morning and Ferguson is reported to have been a “decisive factor” in that initial discussion.
Having already pushed for United to re-sign Ronaldo since he retired, the former United manager was convinced Solskjaer had to make the move.
“Ferguson has seen wishes for United to sign other players go unfulfilled but was not about to let this opportunity go by,” The Athletic reported.
Ferguson is said to have then called members of United’s hierarchy to make sure they were doing “everything possible” to finalise the deal.
He is not the only one though to have played his part in landing one of the game’s most prolific goalscorers.
THE OVERNIGHT PHONE CALLS THAT SEALED THE DEAL
Rio Ferdinand is another who confirmed to having given his former teammate a call to convince him to re-sign with United.
Speaking on FIVE, Ferdinand detailed his conversation with Ronaldo, claiming to have “rang him straight away” after hearing of links to City.
“It’s a beautiful day man, and when it’s a beautiful day you have to wear shades,” he said.
“Sir Alex Ferguson would have been exactly the same. He would have hated to see Ronaldo in a City shirt. Just like any other person that’s been connected for a long time with this football club.
“I rang him straight away and said ‘what’s going on? Tell me you’re lying. I’m like all the fans, I’m exactly the same and we are all the same like that. Please tell me you’re not going’.
“I hope there’s an announcement at some point and it’s the one I would be happy with.”
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There would be and it was a just reward for Ferdinand, who had stayed up until 1.30am local time in a bid to secure the deal.
Then there was Wayne Rooney’s very public comments that joining City would damage Ronaldo’s “legacy”.
Bruno Fernandes, meanwhile, hinted at his “agent” role in Ronaldo’s return on social media after messaging Portugal teammate Patrice Evra voice-notes on WhatsApp.
Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that Fernandes had been in contact with Ronaldo but at that point no deal had been confirmed.
“We’ve always had a good communication,” he said.
“Bruno’s been talking to him as well and he knows what we feel about him. And if he was ever gonna move away from Juventus he knows we’re here.”
He did but up until Solskjaer’s press conference on Friday, all signs were pointing towards a switch to City.
Everything then changed and the United manager’s “body language” foreshadowed what was to come.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE THAT CHANGED IT ALL
Speaking on Sky Sports’ ‘Transfer Show’, Dharmesh Sheth described the past 24 hours as a “whirlwind”.
“I was checking my texts and one I got at 3.44pm yesterday, I got a text saying City was the most likely destination, as recently as that,” he said.
“We knew yesterday that Jorge Mendes was speaking to the biggest clubs in European football, but weren’t getting any confirmation from United that they had been approached.
“They were satisfied with the business they had done, I was told even two weeks ago the bulk of their business had been done, and they had filled their priority positions. The feeling was that he was going to City.”
That all changed when Solskjaer fronted the media.
“His body language gave it away for one, as well as what he said,” Sheth added.
“Simply because when he was asked about Ronaldo, we were expecting him to straight bat it away, but that didn’t happen.
“For him to come out and say that in a news conference was incredible, and we were thinking this is on, suddenly. Then it emerged Mendes had approached United about a deal, and the speed at which it has accelerated has even surprised me.
“We went from that to advanced talks to Mendes giving United the thumbs up, to United announcing it.”
As much as City was reported to be clear favourites for Ronaldo’s signature, there were doubts growing.
Those question marks would go on to also play a key role in sealing his fate.
THE DOUBTS THAT SEALED CITY’S FATE
City sources told The Telegraph there was scepticism as to whether Ronaldo was the right fit but not just for Guardiola’s style of football.
There were also doubts as to whether he was the right kind of player for City and Ronaldo’s camp may have caught wind of those concerns.
Equally, there are claims Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes courted interest from City in a bid to quickly get United to join them at the bidding table.
Regardless, United wanted Ronaldo, there were no second thoughts there but instead a relentless push to seal a fairytale homecoming.
This was not about the past though, it was about creating future memories and taking United all the way to championship glory.
If Ronaldo’s return means anything, it is that Solskjaer is under more pressure than ever before to deliver.
An incredible transfer window has helped fans quickly forget the turmoil that engulfed United earlier this year, when supporters stormed the Old Trafford pitch in protest at the club’s owners.
Now those same fans see a realistic chance at United’s first Premier League title since 2013, when Ferguson retired as manager.
In reality though, Ferguson himself now too has his fingerprints over the trophy should the Red Devils hoist it into the air next year.