The deal that Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United almost did not happen

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Arsenal failed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as an 17-year-old because of the club’s plans to build the Emirates Stadium, according to a new biography of the Portuguese superstar’s agent, Jorge Mendes.

Ronaldo was just 17 when Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made his move to bring the Portuguese starlet to north London, with one of the rising stars of European football impressing during a week-long trial with the Gunners as he plotted his move away from Sporting Lisbon.

Arsène Wenger has said that missing out on Ronaldo before he joinedManchester United from Sporting Lisbon is the biggest regret of his career, especially because he spent a week-long trial at Arsenal.

Wenger previously stated that his failure to sign Ronaldo is “the biggest regret” of his coaching career and it seems the chance to complete the deal did, indeed, slip through the fingers of Arsenal and their then vice-chairman David Dein.

The comments from Mendes are printed in a new book being released with his approval and support, with the quotes appearing in the Daily Mail suggesting Arsenal and the now departed Dein were initially ahead of United in the queue to sign Ronaldo. The expense of their move to Emirates Stadium was the apparent reason the deal was scuppered.

“There was a moment in which I really thought he was going to Arsenal,” Mendes is quoted as saying as he reflected on Ronaldo’s first major transfer.

“David Dein is a spectacular person but, with the construction of their stadium, they were left with very little money and it wasn’t possible.”

Ronaldo is also quoted in the book as he looks back on his flirtations with Arsenal and said: “We were travelling by car and Jorge was calling us constantly telling me to hide so no one would see me. We went to a service station and I had to hide my face. I remember back then that Jorge was going crazy, those were Jorge’s craziest days.”

In the end, it was Manchester United who won the race to sign Ronaldo, with Mendes suggesting the influence of Old Trafford manager Sir Alex Ferguson was crucial to a move that launched the career of one of the most successful players of the modern era.

“The only person key to everything was Alex Ferguson,” added the agent, who also represents Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. “He told me that Cristiano was going to play at least 50 percent of the games for Manchester United and that’s what I wanted to hear. That’s why Cristiano went to Manchester United.”

Ronaldo joined United for a reported fee of just over 12 million pounds in 2003, before emerging as one of the world’s elite players and moving to Real Madrid for a world record 80 millions pounds in 2009.

Earlier in the week, Wenger confirmed he narrowly missed out on signing current United star Angel Di Maria as he looked to make a move to European football.

Manchester United’s players must start taking more risks with the ball

Manchester-United-v-Swansea

Gary Neville has criticised Manchester United’s Daley Blind for taking the ‘easy option’ and failing to provide telling passes for the team’s strikers.

The Holland international has anchored United’s midfield since his £13.8million move from Ajax in the summer.

But Blind and his new team-mates have made their worst start to a season since 1986 and are 10th after 10 games.

Louis van Gaal’s side lined up in a 3-5-2 formation at Loftus Road on Saturday but struggled to breakdown QPR.

With United supporters singing “4-4-2” and “attack, attack, attack”, Van Gaal switched formation just before the hour mark and was rewarded with goals from Marouanne Fellaini and James Wilson.

However, while the change in formation led to United’s breakthrough, Sky Sports pundit Neville believes the players must change their mentality and, rather than worry about not losing the ball, think about how they can go forward with it.

“It’s more impatience than unhappiness [from the United fans],” he said on Monday Night Football.

“They haven’t been taking risks in the 3-5-2 system and in the first 57 minutes at QPR there were no goals, only five shots, four on target and 68% possession.

“Then, when they go to the back four, there’s less possession but goals, more shots and generally a far better performance from them in the last half hour.

“It’s partly the system but it’s a mentality thing as well. I’m not a fan of 3-5-2, when you play that, you end up with your centre backs being the free men and that becomes a careful option, then it kicks into your mentality: ‘I’ve always got a safer pass’.”

Tempo

Neville also had an issue with the speed of United’s play, pointing out Van Gaal’s defenders were spending too long with the ball before getting it forward into the QPR half.

“They play the ball out from the back – as most good teams would – but the tempo is too slow. They play too many passes. Those back three players are on the ball far too much,” he said.

“In the first half on Saturday, Manchester United centre-backs had 114 passes of the ball. You look at the other teams that played away from home this weekend, Southampton (57), Chelsea (37), Arsenal (26) and it’s a miraculous difference.

“When they go to the back four in the second half it goes to 54 passes. It’s a big difference. They started looking at diagonal passes, playing risky ones, making QPR work and doing things that are unpredictable.”

Change

Jamie Carragher reckons Van Gaal’s decision to switch formation wasn’t swayed by the United fans at Loftus Road – but feels the Dutchman must look closely at the stats and consider a long-term change away from the 3-5-2 system.

“The fans singing “4-4-2” and “attack, attack, attack” won’t change Louis van Gaal, given the manager he is. But those stats should change him and that’s the reason why he should go back [to 4-4-2],” said Carragher.

“Systems give you different things but that shows they are more successful playing like that. He’s a possession-based manager but it has to be fast, with penetration. The top teams keep possession – but it has to be quicker.”