Before the turn of the year, I looked at Ronaldo’s form in comparison to the season before. We had all been blown away by his performances in 06-07, so to see him improving so dramatically seemed impossible. There was no way he could sustain this goalscoring form to the end of the season, surely?
Speaking before the last game of the month in January, Sir Alex Ferguson reflected on Ronaldo’s achievements so far. Our Portuguese winger had just missed out on the FIFA award but was determined not to let this effect his form.
Ronaldo had scored 25 goals in all competitions, 17 goals in the league. The season before, when he was said to be having a brilliant season, he had scored just 13 goals in all competitions, some 12 goals off.
“With Ronaldo having scored 25 goals already there is the potential for him to score 30 this season, without question,” said Sir Alex Ferguson back in January. “He’s not that far off and has a strong chance. I’m not sure that he is capable of scoring 30 league goals, though. I think that is a different matter entirely. Achieving that would be more difficult and it’s a big ask, but if he does manage it, I’ll pay him more money!”
By the end of January, Ronaldo had scored 27 goals in all competitions, an incredible 9 goals in 6 matches that month, with the 22-year-old looking certain to meet the 30 goal target Ferguson had suggested. However, even then, considering Ronaldo’s brilliant form, the idea of him scoring 30 league goals seemed pretty outlandish. Had someone told us by the end of the season he’d have scored 42 goals in 47 games, we’d have struggled to believe it.
So, Fergie has today claimed that Ronaldo can get even better. Is it possible?
“When he scored 25 goals the season before, no-one thought he could do better than that but I felt he could,” said Ferguson. “I expected him to improve, just as I expect him to improve next season. Of course, we are at a different level. Twenty-five goals against 42 is totally different. So if he only gets to 41 I will forgive him. I am sure he will have a great season.”
Now, the idea of any player being able to improve on that incredible goal-tally is pretty far fetched. The idea of a player who has spent all summer cockteasing Real Madrid then returning to Manchester and focussing on the task in hand might appear to be even more unbelievable. However, I’m not going to rule out Fergie being right here, for a few reasons.
Firstly, Ronaldo is going to be up against it next season, with the likelihood the boos won’t just be originating from the away section at Old Trafford. There are plenty of reds utterly fed up with him and his recent admission that he’s staying at United will do little to improve their feelings towards him. Now, whilst lots of players wouldn’t react well to this, we’ve already seen how Ronaldo thrives when the crowd are against him.
The first season he won the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards followed the summer of the 2006 World Cup, where he was terrorised at grounds up and down the country. His improvement in form lead to even more hatred from the non-United fans in this country, seeing Ronaldo enjoy the most successful season of any winger at the club, including George Best, finishing with a league and European Cup double.
Secondly, Ronaldo is just 23-years-old, years away from what should be his peak. If already he has been the best player in England for successive seasons and is certain to be crowned FIFA World Player of the Year in December following his form of 07-08, imagine what he can achieve when he’s a year closer to his peak.
Thirdly, Ronaldo still wants to go to Real Madrid, despite being committed for next season. With Real Madrid capable of signing most players in the World, Ronaldo is not going to want to miss out on his ‘dream’ chance of playing for them. To ensure this, he needs to make sure that he’s playing brilliant football.
Do you think Ronaldo can improve on last season’s form?