Manchester United supporters are getting reminders of how it used to be from all sides right now.
Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both tearing it up in MLS, with DC United and LA Galaxy respectively, delivering the goals and match-winning performances they once produced at Old Trafford.
And it is difficult for a day to go by without the likes of Paul Scholes or Rio Ferdinand bemoaning the club’s current situation under Jose Mourinho’s management and talking of what the team is lacking when compared to United’s greats.
It is never easy to be reminded of a golden era when the sun has stopped shining, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on Tuesday night with Juventus in the Champions League will offer perhaps the starkest jolt to those brought up on United playing and winning, with a certain style and self-assurance.
Recent allegations that Ronaldo raped a woman in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009 — allegations that the 33-year-old denies — have ensured that there will be no celebratory welcome planned for the player on Tuesday night.
It will be treated as just another game by United, with the club keen to avoid any suggestion of a public show of support for their former player, but only time will tell how Ronaldo is greeted by the Old Trafford supporters when he walks out onto the pitch.
Back in 2013, when he returned to Old Trafford for the first and only time since his £80 million sales to Real Madrid in June 2009, Ronaldo was given a standing ovation and introduced as the “magnificent seven” by United’s stadium announcer seconds before kick-off.
Circumstances are different this time, but from a pure football perspective, it is safe to say that United have never recovered from the sale of Ronaldo nine-and-a-half years ago.
Yes, they have won every major honor with the exception of the Champions League since 2009, but there has been a failure on the club’s part to fill the superstar void and if he really was the “magnificent seven,” replacing him with a comparable successor has proved to be mission impossible.
When United announced Ronaldo’s world-record sale the noises from the club were clear, both publicly and privately, that the £80m would be reinvested in the team.