If things had gone differently in the last week of the summer transfer window then Cristiano Ronaldo could have been lining up in the sky blue of Manchester City this weekend for the derby.

City were leading the race to land Ronaldo until a call from Sir Alex Ferguson changed his fate and led him back to Manchester United.

Those who had been burning their old Ronaldo United shirts in anticipation of him joining City were quickly putting their fires out.

It’s been a mixed bag for the Portugal legend since he returned to the Premier League however and his recent form has led to many observers calling for him to be dropped.

With little other option though, United manager Ralf Rangnick has stuck with the 37-year-old up front despite him only having one goal this calendar year.

How differently would things have gone for Ronaldo had he picked blue over red in the summer?

After missing out in their long pursuit of Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Ronaldo was considered as a realistic alternative for City late in the window.

City boss Pep Guardiola has often mentioned that his squad does not feature a striker who contributes 40+ goals a season and who can be ruthless in games of few chances as Ronaldo has been throughout his career.


Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United GFX

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Guardiola has been keen to end the debate over whether or not they are missing an out and out striker and has to work with the squad and individuals he’s got at his disposal.

And when they were 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, and cruising through a Champions League group stage while Ronaldo was almost single-handedly salvaging United’s European campaign with a clutch of late goals, there wasn’t too much of an argument to be had.

But City have stumbled in recent weeks. The goals have dried up and the lack of a centre forward has come back into focus.

Losing to Tottenham, they scored twice but the first came from a Hugo Lloris spill and the second was a penalty.

In open play they struggled to create opportunities, despite the vast majority of possession and time spent in Spurs’ half. They sent over a remarkable 42 crosses leading to speculation over whether someone with the athleticism and leap of Ronaldo have made the difference.

Instead they were forced to move centre-back Aymeric Laporte into a forward role for the final few minutes in a move unreflective of Guardiola’s usual controlled style.

Against Everton, there were 23 crosses and the only goal came when Bernardo Silva’s delivery was deflected and wrong-footed Michael Keane for Phil Foden to tap home from close range.

With teams sitting back, City have played matches in which using a blunt instrument such as the killer instinct of Ronaldo could have been beneficial.


Pep Guardiola Manchester City GFX

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However, there are other matches, against more open sides, when Ronaldo wouldn’t have been anywhere near Guardiola’s plans.

In his last game for United, against Watford, he cut an even more frustrated figure than usual. He looked every one of his 37 years. After one missed chance in the second half, he kicked the goal post in anger.

Former Blue Shaun Wright-Phillips was recently asked which of the current United side would get a place in City’s XI; his reply was zero. It is hard to argue Ronaldo’s case to be included on current form.

Despite just having one goal this year, Guardiola is more than aware of the threat the five-time Ballon d’Or winner can provide.

“As a finisher he’s exceptional, I’m not going to disguise it was a joy to watch him these years. We have to explode our game, our strength to avoid Cristiano close to the box, because there he is almost unstoppable,” the City manager said.

“I remember when we played there and we were winning 1-0  and in control, perfect, perfect, and then the first time arrived he made a chance and Eddy [Ederson] made an incredible save.

“He hadn’t touched the ball but nearly scored. That is the quality and ability that he has. We have to control him. When you are one of the greatest that he was in terms of being a goalscoring machine, you will always be there.

“He is so strong mentally. He handled pressure without a problem because he lived with expectation throughout his career and always responded in a positive way.”

The pressure on Ronaldo at the Etihad could not be higher. He’s in the worst form of his career and facing a team he could have joined and with whom he would most likely have won major honours.

In that regard, Ronaldo might even have a tiny bit of regret when he lines up on Sunday.

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If he puts in a similar performance to what he has shown recently there will be no regrets from the blue side of Manchester.

Rangnick and his staff will be hoping the Portugal captain can find the sort of form that leaves Guardiola wondering… what if?

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