There is every reason to believe that United are serious about getting Cristiano Ronaldo back. There's only one problem: he's entirely the wrong player for the team. A one-man-band of an attacking force, United's struggles to move play quickly enough, control games, and produce intricate moves in the final third will not be helped by Ronaldo being added to a team that already contains plenty of goals and pace. The exorbitant fee would surely rule out a much-needed midfield overhaul.
Of course, that doesn't mean Ronaldo wouldn't improve United immeasurably - he's far too good not to warrant being the main man in any team that has ever existed. It's just not what they need to elevate themselves into the pantheon of great teams along with their classes of 1999 and 2008. The move, of course, hinges on Ronaldo's status as
homecoming queen returning prodigal son - but Anderson is the closest he's going to get to a fatted calf.
Ronaldo's move has many parallels also being mooted. The notion of Arsene Wenger moving to Paris Saint-Germain seems odd at first - a man accustomed to working in an entirely different fashion, a manager enduring a long trophyless streak who has never won the Champions League being considered the ideal man to do exactly that. Again, romance is at play - it's hard to think Wenger would even be considered were he not French, and the move would have the air of a player returning to his hometown club at great expense without thought or consideration for how he would actually fit into the team.
The ultimate in all of this, as always is José Mourinho. His destination post-Madrid has been shrouded in intrigue for some time, although there have always been three frontrunners - Manchester United, Chelsea, and Paris Saint-Germain. If, as believed by some, he was set to succeed Ferguson before he decided to stick it out for another year, then he may well be the first manager in history to think twice about taking the Chelsea job for fear it would be a difficult engagement to get out of, but now the shotgun wedding looks like it could be a reality.
As game-changers go, it makes United's mooted acquisition of Ronaldo look like "well we've got the boy Bebe coming back, and that'll be like a new signing." When the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne are taken into account, Chelsea's squad is the finest in the league - by replacing the hapless Rafael Benitez with José Mourinho, they'd threaten to become unstoppable. Mourinho's aesthetic has changed in his exile - although by increasing his unpredictability and ruthlessness he's managed to make getting fatter and greyer work for him, he's not the same man as when he left - his style and the identity of his second great Chelsea team would be a fascinating watch.
In short, if it all took place, the title race would consist of what has the potential to be one of the greatest three-horse races in recent memory. Manchester City appear to be the only club not relying on a sense of romance - unless, of course, they allow Roberto Mancini to keep his job, but they'll certainly be competing on an even footing. After all, wouldn't United and Chelsea be getting carried away? Shouldn't they simply do what they can to improve their team and squad instead of chasing old heroes?
Yet that's the way it should be. Football would be a dull spectacle indeed were it not for the sub-plots and, contrary to what the FA might tell you, context. Guardiola to Bayern Munich might make more sense, but it doesn't convey anything like the power of what other moves could be taking place. All the potential moves could break down or turn out to be steam, but the potential is there for the doomed romantics.
It doesn't matter how much sense it makes in tactical or financial terms. An FA Cup semi-final between Ferguson and Mourinho in the context of a neck-and-neck title challenge? A meeting between Alex Ferguson's Robin van Persie and Arsene Wenger's Wayne Rooney in a Champions League quarter-final? Forget the quality, feel the narrative. If you're seriously questioning the tactical or financial sense of any of that, then this isn't the sport for you. Cross your fingers for a footballing summer of love.