The atmosphere was buoyant inside Old Trafford on a balmy day last September as Manchester United entertained Newcastle and Cristiano Ronaldo lined up for the Red Devils for the first time in over 12 years.
The anticipation among the Old Trafford faithful was palpable and the Portuguese superstar did not disappoint. Two goals, including one in front of a mesmerised Stretford End, guided United to a resounding 4-1 win and optimism was abounds.
Their returning hero Ronaldo was seen as the final piece of the jigsaw to push Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side onto the title after a second-placed finish the previous season.
Meanwhile, in Paris, Lionel Messi was struggling to adapt after his emotional exit from Barcelona. The Catalan club had to let the Argentinian depart after being unable to retain him due to LaLiga Financial Fair Play rules.
The abiding memory of Messi being in tears at having to leave his boyhood club was one of the visions of the summer as he embarked on a new chapter with Qatari-backed PSG, joining fellow superstars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in a mouth-watering attack.
It was poignant that two of the world’s greatest-ever players, who had battled for more than a decade on the pitch and shared the Ballon d’Or in 11 of the previous 12 years, both got the final big moves of their careers at the same time.
With the iconic pair having scored 267 Champions League goals between them, they were always going to be compared to each other in their new journeys.