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Cristiano Ronaldo has just paid Liverpool a compliment as Jürgen Klopp enjoys transfer advantage

 

Liverpool fans are no doubt watching on with glee as Cristiano Ronaldo pushes for a move away from Old Trafford, just 12 months on from his return to Manchester United.

 

As pre-season training gets underway, Liverpool’s arch-rivals Manchester United have been rocked by the news that their biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo, wants to leave the club.

What about United? Well, Erik ten Hag has now finalised his first signing, with 22-year-old Feyenoord full-back Tyrell Malacia set to join for around £13m.

Malacia, though, is probably viewed as a squad player at Old Trafford, rather than someone who will necessarily strengthen the first XI straight off the bat.

What Ten Hag really wants is a reunion with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who won the 2018/19 Eredivisie Player of the Year Award under the Dutchman’s tutelage.

However, it’s fair to say the pursuit of the 25-year-old has dragged on. Even this weekend, Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said that ‘we have no intention of selling him [and] he wants to stay’.

Public posturing or otherwise, De Jong has already spoken of his contentment at the Nou Camp. He may be open to joining United, but he’s hardly enthused. Perhaps part of the reason the saga has run for weeks is that he’s not actively pushing for the move.

 

Already, it seems that Ronaldo has decided that Ten Hag will not be able to compete with City and Liverpool next season. His worries are, implicitly, a compliment to the Reds.

It’s clear that he regards their business highly. They have, after all, landed one of the best young strikers in world football, just like City.

Some Liverpool fans may be unsure whether their squad is truly stronger than last season, with Sadio Mané leaving for Bayern Munich, but Ronaldo seems to believe that, as of right now, the gap between the two big rivals — which stood at a cavernous 34 points at the end of last season — has only widened.

But all this also demonstrates that Liverpool and City have altered expectations. It’s worth stressing that the transfer window only opened just over three weeks ago, on 10 June, and it still runs for another two months, with the deadline set for 1 September.

Even with the start of the season brought forward, there are still five weeks before the Premier League kick-off.

And yet, there’s already a creeping sense that United are in trouble, dramatically magnified by Ronaldo’s transfer request.

 

“It’s worrying that United are struggling to get business done,” Gary Neville tweeted last month. “The others seem set and ready yet United can’t get moving.”

There might be one or tweaks — Manchester City will probably pursue a left-back, for instance, and Liverpool could move if something exceptional turns up in the market — but for the most part, the top two are all set. Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will virtually have their full squads at their disposal when they reconvene in the next couple of weeks.

All the while, it feels like the summer has only just begun for Manchester United

 

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