Manchester United have moved back down to second in the table after losing to West Ham today. Whenever United lose there is a temptation to start pointing the finger. We surely can’t have lost because we weren’t good enough, so what can we blame it on?
I had a go at playing the blame game earlier, but I’m sure the popular culprit for today’s loss is Cristiano Ronaldo, after he missed a penalty which would have put us 2-0 up. Darren Fletcher, who I don’t believe should have started today, has stood up for Ronaldo, saying after all he has done for us, he shouldn’t be blamed. “Ronaldo missed his penalty but that can happen,” Fletcher said. “We’re still in a comfortable position 1-0 up and then it comes down to set-pieces. It’s not him to blame, he’s been fantastic for us and won us many games and many points. We were still in a winning position, so it’s nothing to do with the penalty that lost us the game today. It was individual errors at set-pieces that have cost us.”
Fletcher’s statement poses a difficult question for me. Whilst there can be no doubt Ronaldo has been instrumental to our place in the table this season and last, does that make it acceptable for him to screw up today? There are certain things I can turn a blind eye to where Ronaldo is concerned, most notably, his inability to show up in the big games. Now, I can forgive his selfishness on the field, even when it doesn’t pay off, because he has given us so much. I can even forgive him for not turning up in the big games, because he usually turns up week in week out in the small games. But can we forgive a penalty miss?
I’d have bet a fair amount of Ronaldo putting that penalty away, and whilst usually some anxiety comes with being awarded a penalty, I am far too used to finding myself very relaxed when they come our way these days. Ronaldo seems to always score penalties, and at a time when he is experiencing the goalscoring form of his life, there seemed no doubt he’d wrap up the game for us. To not even force a save from the West Ham keeper is rather unnerving. What was he thinking about?? There are certain things we should be able to expect, and getting penalties on target should be one of them. We can look at the rest of the team as much as want, talk about the lacklustre performance and the poor tactics from Ferguson, but essentially, a penalty is a gift of a goal, and there is no excuse for not at least working the goalkeeper.
Essentially though, as much as I was swearing and shouting at full time, as much as I was cursing Ronaldo, everyone is entitled to make mistakes, and this is a mistake we can deal with. We’ve lost out on the points today, but if we’re honest, they’re not points we deserved. United need a kick up the arse, they need to be reminded this title is theirs to work to hold on to, not theirs just to keep regardless, and hopefully today will have served this purpose.
So, he may not be our favourite person right now, but he’s the highest scorer in the Premiership, he’s a United player, and I’ve every confidence he’ll bounce back for Birmingham. The added desire to make up for today can’t do any harm either!
How do you feel about Ronaldo after his penalty miss?
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.