Follow Doron on Twitter
When a player leaves a club, you’re never quite sure exactly what to do. Is it wrong to still have an interest in him or should one be solely focussed on those who represent your team? The circumstances surrounding a departure often dictate which route is followed as does the status of the player. There’s no right or wrong way but many United fans have gone down the route of continuing to idolise Cristiano Ronaldo.
As a fearless and slightly arrogant 18 year old, Ronaldo announced himself to the Old Trafford crowd with an infamous cameo off the bench against Bolton. He brought something United hadn’t really had since the early Giggs years – pace, unpredictability and excitement. It didn’t take long for fans to work out that they were watching the making of a special player – a willingness to try something new, get whacked and have immense bravery. The fact that he became vilified by opposition fans so quickly only further strengthened the bond between player and home fans.
Having been gone from Old Trafford for three years, United fans seem to finally be back in love with him, and rightly so. At present, he’s in a group of footballers who are unquestionably the best at the game. He can take a lot of credit for Portugal’s progress through to the semi finals of Euro 2012 and Real Madrid’s La Liga success last season. The timing of his recent successes has played a big part in the love-in.
Last season was one of huge frustration for United fans – the team lacked a killer instinct and lacked regular attacking flair and/or quality. For a change, plenty of opposition fans wanted United to win the league, anything to stop City. Yet, at the same time, the best player the club have had, probably in the 21st century, the kind of player the club could do with now, started his own campaign to break goalscoring records and quell the love for Messi.
Ronaldo of course had gone two years at Madrid without a league title. The move of his dreams had been good but not exactly gone to plan. Individual awards, which matter to him a lot, had been going to the Barcelona players – he wasn’t the top dog in Spain. United fans have found it easy to get behind him again and want him to dethrone Barcelona, particularly given the lessons Barca have handed out to United recently.
Oddly, for someone with such a gigantic ego, he’s at his most normal when he reflects on his time at United and talks about Ferguson. He says all the right things, praising the staff, the fans, the club and never rules out a return to United. He appears well aware of the fact that he was genuinely loved and clearly enjoyed being the biggest star in both the club and the league. It’s hard to see that he’ll ever return – United can no longer afford him and Real Madrid are at present a better team. Still, one can harbour some misplaced hope.
With 91 goals in his last three seasons for United, he hinted that at his peak, something special would happen but scoring 146 goals in 144 games for Real Madrid is beyond what anyone could have imagined. Ferguson’s even joked that at £80m, Madrid got a bargain. (Probably true, not that we’ve used the money productively). Now at his peak and most consistent, we can look back and be proud that our club played such a huge part in his development. For example, United’s coaches noticed that he could be lethal in the air, he was tall but lanky and so they worked on his jumping and aerial power. The result was terrifying.
Not everyone likes Ronaldo – plenty dislike the ‘show’ that comes with him, his greasy look, and the all-round individual obsession. For example, I remember being disappointed that having scored the stunning breakaway goal at Arsenal he went neither to Rooney (the provider) to celebrate nor the United fans – rather he ran away from the fans and assumed his familiar pout so all attention was on him.
Three years on and finally able to accept that we sold a virus to the mob, I find it incredibly easy to both back him and get nostalgic about what we once had. Looking at United today the side are probably more of a collective unit than when Ronaldo was at the club but are certainly worse off without him. Obviously my focus goes on United but I’m delighted he’s a league winner in Spain and I love that he’s still hated by many. Watching him play for United was a privilege and I hope we’ll unearth another gem like him some time soon.