HATCHET MAN: No Ronaldo, no goals, no title ... Reality is about to hit Fergie like a wet football
The summer optimism at Manchester United will be as high as ever after they were gifted an opening game at home against relegation candidates Birmingham. A feast of goals will be expected but even if that materialises it is more likely to be the exception rather than the norm in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo next season. Real Madrid may be paying £80m for him but it won't stop United losing their Premier League crown. Ronaldo's imminent departure has brought a raft of theories about how United will cope without him: Wayne Rooney will now be the main man, Karim Benzema will be bought to fill the void or Carlos Tevez will stay and save the day. Notable by its absence is the notion of Dimitar Berbatov – the striker who doesn't want to be known as a goalscorer - coming to the rescue, but that is another story. The problem is that it is tough to make a compelling case for any of the arguments United followers believe in. Rooney, despite his talk of becoming more selfish, enjoys so much more than goalscoring and will not transform his game overnight. Benzema, even if he comes, is unproven in England and most foreign players (including the others United are looking at) take time to adjust, while fitting Tevez with United's other strikers is still a problem for Sir Alex Ferguson. Ronaldo has been United's top Premier League goalscorer for the last three seasons. Each time the second highest scorer has trailed some way behind and they have come to rely on him. He intimidates defenders, scores goals from free-kicks to headers and provides lots of assists too. If there was one player the rest of the top flight will be glad to be rid of, it will be Ronaldo (and notjust because of his diving)...as United will find out to their cost.
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