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Could We Ever Love Ronaldo Like Cantona?

Following a superb season by Manchester United, the wind was taken out of sails somewhat by the constant speculation linking Cristiano Ronaldo with a move to Real Madrid. Ramon Calderon stalked our winger, talking about him to the press almost every day and the column inches were filled with stories of Ronaldo rather than stories of our success.

Sir Alex Ferguson flew to Portugal to talk to our player, who seemed set on a move away from the club, and convinced him that staying at United was the right thing to do. Ronaldo returned to Manchester, apologising profusely to the fans, and insisting he was happy to continue to help bring success to the club.

Ferguson has today claimed that when Ronaldo does finally leave the club, obviously assuming it won’t be next summer, he will leave like a hero, like Eric Cantona. Is this right?

My instincts are to say ‘of course not’, but then I wasn’t really expecting the Prodigal Son act after the summer either. He was welcomed back with open arms by our fans, when a few months ago, all blogs and fansites were filled with criticism of the Portuguese winger.

Fans are fickle, we know this, but I just didn’t realise how fickle.

But then I started to think about Cantona’s time with United. He was much loved by our fans, still is, but it’s not as if his time at United was perfect either.

Cantona missed nine months for United after attacking a fan in the crowd. Whatever we want to say about the racist comments coming from the Palace fan, we can’t excuse what Eric did. Is this not comparable, on some level, to the eight month ban Rio Ferdinand was given after missing a drug’s test? Of course, the real resentment of Rio came when he was holding out on his contract, something Cantona never did, but United missed out on all the trophies that season without Eric in the team, and he does have to be held accountable for that to a certain degree.

Then I thought about Cantona fleeing to France, saying he didn’t want to play for United anymore.

“We know it will be difficult for Eric to return to normal football in this country, but we think it is possible,” said Ferguson. “I’ve said all along we want him to stay, and together we can work it out.”

Ferguson flew out there, just as he did to Portugal this summer, and was successful in convincing the Frenchman to stay.

Of course, I’m not saying what Cantona did is directly comparable to the behaviour of Ronaldo, but there are similarities. Cantona is arguably the most loved former player, with his name sung in Manchester’s pubs on a weekly basis, yet his time at United wasn’t exactly blemish free. This made me wonder that if Ronaldo left when the time was right, maybe he could be adored by our fans in, if not the same, a similar way. Ferguson thinks so.

“I think Cristiano has come to accept that at this stage of his career, United is the place for him,” said Ferguson. “Southern Europeans want at some point to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, so I understood what was going on in Cristiano’s mind when he declared he wanted to join Real. But once we had talked he accepted it was a move for the future. I pointed out to him how much better it would be to leave like Eric Cantona, with the fans loving and appreciating him. The crowd still chant Cantona’s name and I told Cristiano ‘Leave a hero like Eric’ and one day he will. But not yet.”

Do you think Ronaldo could ever be loved like Cantona?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Arsene wanker says:

    I dont know,to be honest. i was amazed by the fans reaction just like every one else,and i wrote that Ronaldo’s situation reminds me of my EX_girlfriend (sad really).
    i think Cantona was different,he played for the team ,whereas Ronaldo playes for his own glory……i hope one day he realizes,where he stands and appreciates it.
    Any new news regarding Possebon(apart from the news that his leg isn’t broken)?????

  2. mav_9me says:

    Although I voted no, the way I see it he has a long long way to prove that he actually values the club, and only then maybe he can be considered as a United great.

    Personally I dont love him. I dont like him much either. I would rather we be succesful without him. But as the editor of one red fanzine, I forget who, said we do not cut our nose to spite our face. If we need him to win trophies then we need him and we will use him, just as he doesnt value us. But there will not be any love for him not from me at least.

  3. Drew Vader says:

    I dont entirely agree with your He only plays for personal glory comment,

    Apart from his “maybe they kick me because I’m too good” comment, Ronaldo always seems to give support and praise to his teammates. I know it really doesn’t mean shit, and maybe I’m reading way too much into it, but I appreciate the way he celebrates his goals. He always runs directly to the person who gave him the assist and he thanks all of the players, including Vidic and Brown once they make their way forward. Look at last night, right over to hug Giggs for putting in a good corner (first one in a while from United, which is really f’ing frustrating, but thats for another day).

  4. Drew Vader says:

    In answering your question Scott, I’d say it all comes down to how many trophies he wins for us, simple as that. Its superficial and maybe a bit spoiled on my part, but thats how I see it. If we finish trophyless this year and he fucks off to Madrid, then hell no, he won’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Eric the King. However, if he stays around a few years and adds another league title or two to his belt, along with hopefully a second champs league crown, then it could be a possibility. It remains to be seen.

  5. Drew Vader says:

    And oh yeah…I thought he was working to faze out the diving, but based on that embarrassing shit against Chelski when he first came on, I guess I was wrong and a leopard cant change his spots. That will hurt his evaluation in my eyes if he continues down that path…

  6. john says:

    in a word: NO!

  7. Stermski says:

    He’ll be loved if he leaves on good terms, but not as much as our Eric. :)

  8. FailsworthDevil says:

    Not as much as Eric.. as “Le King” retired after us.. he wanted to finish at United.. where as CR7 wants to play at Madrid so will never be in the same breath as EC.. the only thing i can say is if he does stay for 4 years and does play like he has the last 2. then i will be happy with that…

    Personally would like him to stay 10 years… get his testimonial and then move on he will only be 28… we will have had 10 good years… get a butty off madrid and ronaldo will play the last 5 years at madrid.. think we would all be happy with that

  9. john ferry says:

    If Eric is the king, then ronaldo is the “queen.” I have nightmares of waking up dressed like him.

  10. FailsworthDevil says:

    What ya doin with CR7′s clothes john lol??

  11. wiuru... says:

    Simple answer is yes , he by virtue of his skill alone can threaten any team love or hate him he is united. Fergie knows this and would walk thro fire to keep CR7. The one story i believed during the transfer season was that if he was sold, SAF would resign

  12. Tom F says:

    Didn’t know what to make of his ‘celebration’ yesterday. I think he knows fully well that he has a lot of making up to do with the fans and it looked that way after he scored last night!

  13. OTRed says:

    He will be loved(not by me, though i won’t hate him either), but it will take a lot before any player in our current crop can be as loved as Eric.

  14. JohnnyCareysBaggyShorts says:

    Agree with you, John – not a chance. He is a mercenary and a damn good one but he will never rank among the legends. Gary Neville will always be loved. So too will Scholesy, 20legend and a number of others. Ronaldo? No.

  15. Indonesian Reddevil says:

    Never. How is it possible for a player who has openly claimed want to go to other club is loved like King Eric? Eric never wanted to play for other clubs, he finish his career with United and the most important thing is he still loves everything about United….and @Drew Vader, if I’m not mistaken Bryan Robson won less trophies than ronaldo, does that make Robson less loved? Regardless of how many trophies ronaldo won for us, he will never be loved like we love Eric. Unless of course ronaldo change his mind and finish his career with us, but we know that won’t happen……….

  16. RedAlert260599 says:

    Ronaldo loved like The King?
    Norfolk and Chance pal!

  17. Jig says:


    Eric loves Utd, it was and is his home. He understood the club in the way that a select few players can. There were good and bad times and there were also complaints that he never performed in the big games but he never turned his back on the club. Fergie had to fly out and convince him not to turn his back on football & the premier league, it was never utd he turned away from.

    Ronaldo is a great young player and his talent justifies his actions to a degree but he will never be loved like Eric. I was embarrassed by the fan’s reaction to his re-introduction, it was akin to the Vermin brown-nosing Gerrard after the CSK London episode.

    The kid deserves to be applauded when playing well for the club but I think the fans should have more respect for themselves than jumping around like fools when he pirouettes off the bench. I don’t hold it against him for wanting to move to Real, if i was in the same position in Spain I would love to sign for Utd as I’ve supported them my whole life.

    There is however only one King.

  18. suhayl says:

    1. Difference is yes ronaldo may like utd…but he is a professional who wants to do the best for himself..perform to his best ..become the best..and yes even though he gives it his all for utd. ITS this peronsal achievement and glory that is the difference. Ronaldo great player for us and his acievements are maybe peerless. BUT the likes of CANTONA did it for more than personal gain or improvement or accolades or achievement. YES like ronaldo they gave it there all to attain things for the club. But the difference is they breathed..worshipped..dreamt..and became man utd. That love…that passion..that talk of utd as the best. Ron doesnt have that.

    That heart of cantona = robotic efficient ronaldo

    Cantona will talk about utd higher than himself…as the club that made him eric the king. Ronaldo will talk about what he gave and did for utd.

    The heart and sole of a club compared to an employee who may do amazing things, yet still behaves like an employee..i perform…get a wage and get better. Whilst ERIC became part of manchester utd ala sir bob..sir matt..saf…besty etc. Thats the difference

  19. suhayl says:


    fickle fans = fans that epitomise modern day football….families…screaming teenage girls who go to watch hunks and their pin ups………rather than knowing f all about football or the game. One time fans and glory hunters. Most fly by night fans who dont know f all about the club, history tradition and passion. Just people on the bandwagon. Thats why true lifetime diehards get drowned out by pathetic screams ronaldo we love you etc.

    Those days of the hardcore element at many a top clubs have disappeared to the globalisation and appeal of our clubs. Thats why people say..if you want to see real footbal fans and passion…then go to watch lower league game…and its true. You wont see fickle fans there…cos theres nowt to be fickle about


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