United fans had to endure even more ridiculous criticism of our Portugese winger earlier this week when he was accused of diving against Fulham. The referee booked him after he went down in the penalty area. I’ve browsed a few football forums and how there is any debate on it is beyond me. As United fans, we’ve seen more Ronaldo dives than any of these rivals who despise him so much, and if anyone is an expert on spotting them, it is us! If people want to debate whether a penalty should have been awarded or not, then I can just about tolerate that, but whether it a dive or not should not be called in to question. The keeper came out, made no attempt to go for the ball, and Ronaldo had two options; jump over the keeper, or run in to him, but neither choice changes the fact a penalty should have been awarded. In future, I hope Ronaldo runs in to the keeper, see how much damage he can cause, and look back on all the criticism he has received from trying to avoid Niemi on Monday night. If people think it’s now acceptable for goalkeepers to come out to players, get nothing on the ball, but prevent them going on to tap the ball in to the open net by stretching their arms up to the player and getting their body in the way, then fair play. What can I say, other than tell me the same thing when it’s Gerrard going down in the box.
United fans were defending Ronaldo, telling everyone he isn’t the diver he used to be. He’s changed, we cried. There will be occasions when Ronaldo goes to ground more easily than he should, but there is always contact these days, and after the three fouls the referee will have already missed, I don’t begrudge him a softer freekick every now and again.
Now let’s fast forward a few days and United are playing Derby. Ronaldo’s on the ball, the Stretford End on their feet, and just like a few days before, in the same box, Ronaldo is on the ground. As the referee pointed to the spot I leapt to my feet, “about fucking time referee!” and I was referring to all referees, all the spineless prats who deny Ronaldo time and again when he is kicked from pillar to post by the opposition. Ronaldo was in the box, with three players around him, and one of them swiped a leg out, tripping him. Spot on referee, well done.
Then I come home and watch Match of the Day. Whilst two players did stick a leg out, not getting a touch on the ball, importantly, they didn’t touch Ronaldo either. He kicked his legs out and hit the deck. Fuck sake Ronaldo. FUCK sake. Here we are, defending you to our bitter blue mates in the local, telling them you’re a changed man, and then against Derby, when we’re 3-1 up, in injury time, you do something stupid like that. What’s the point?
.The weather was rubbish and it was hard to play against Derby. Water and mud sprayed up whenever a player put his foot through the ball, and the passes which would usually be perfectly weighted were cut dead by the waterlogged pitch. Not long after kick off I remembered my trip to Ewood Park last season, driving along the M60 in the pissing down rain. I was running late and couldn’t see a bloody thing out of the windscreen. I got in to the ground just in time for kick off, but the rain didn’t let up all match. Van der Sar collected a simple shot, jumping on the ball, but due to the wet pitch, slid out of the box and had to release the ball. Errors like this were forced all match because of the rain. It was a nervy game, which United won 1-0 thanks to a Louis Saha goal, but both sides were pressured in to making mistakes due to the slip and slide effect on the pitch, and I was anxious all match waiting to see if any of them would end up being costly.
Whilst more than pretty confident of all three points before kick off yesterday, when the conditions are the way they were, I was just hoping that United would be able to switch it on today and secure the points. Derby were no threat to our exciting and creative players, but the weather certainly could be. “It is easy to understand why United go on such jaunts when you see the sort of weather they have to put up with at home, but though the conditions kept the score down, the home side’s effort and application could not be faulted,” reported The Guardian.
Players like Tevez, Rooney and Evra were running all over the place, and generally, our team grafted hard to get the goals. Ronaldo could take credit for the first two, considering it was his powerful shots which set up Giggs and Tevez, but was he a grafter yesterday? Not really. I’m not even criticising him for it either, because if he sets up two goals and scored another, it would be a bit rich to complain about him. But in contrast to most games we’ve seen this season, where Ronaldo is all over the field, tracking back almost as much as he goes forward, he just didn’t seem at the races yesterday. Was it the weather? Well, I’m sure that contributed to it, but I think his negative body language can be explained by something else.
Saturday saw a performance from him in contrast to Monday, when he scored both our goals and bossed the game. He stole the show. Then with ten minutes to go, Ronaldo is denied his hatrick, the referee books him for no good reason (meaning he is now one yellow card away from a suspension) and it appears as though Ronaldo is still feeling it. The game was wrapped up yesterday, there was no need to go down in the box, but he did it anyway, why? A big “fuck you” to this country, its press, its referees, its fans? He gets lumps kicked out of him and the ref gives the benefit of the doubt to the opposition. He is booed every week as the team list is read out, booed every time he is tripped over and fouled, despite being the most entertaining player in the Premiership, drawing the eyes of the World to our league. He should be awarded a penalty and is instead booked for diving. He should be vindicated in the press the following day but the tabloids label him a cheat and a diver regardless.
Whether Ronaldo dives or is fouled, whether Ronaldo wins the penalty or doesn’t, whatever Ronaldo does, he’s going to get slated for it. The press following Ronaldo’s dive against Derby will not differ much from the press he received following the penalty he should have won against Fulham. The country will call him a diver following Derby as much as they did following Fulham. So can it all even out? He gets kicked around the park every week, sometimes he’s awarded freekicks, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes the players are booked for intentionally fouling him, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes the referee will blow for a penalty, sometimes they won’t. So, if you can’t beat the bastards, join them? If they’re going to cheat, purposefully kicking at him, bringing him down with no effort for the ball, then can he not cheat as well? Players like Michael Brown can stamp on Ronaldo’s chest and nothing is done to them, but if Ronaldo unfairly wins a penalty, there is all hell to pay.
No freekick for the initial foul, the City fans booed to deafening degrees as Ronaldo lay on the deck, the FA took no further action on the player.
Freekick given, no yellow card, despite making no effort for the ball, and stopping Ronaldo from breaking in to the box.
Red card offence, jumping in high and going nowhere near the ball, only a yellow card given.
Chelsea have five players behind the ball and Ronaldo has only just entered the oppositions half. Doesn’t stop Joe Cole swiping out at Ronnie’s ankle. Red card offence, yellow card given.
Ronaldo beats the man, but Tugay kicks out at his knee anyway. Despite what the commentator says in the clip, Tugay is not booked.
Here’s a compilation of some of the worst.
Middlesbrough hate Cristiano Ronaldo because of the two penalties he won against them last season. Despite initially labeling Ronaldo a cheat for the penalty he got at the Riverside, Southgate later came out and acknowledged it wasn’t a dive. The offending player for the penalty awarded at Old Trafford, Jonathan Woodgate, said it was no Ronaldo dive. Still, it doesn’t stop the press latching on to it, and it doesn’t stop the fans working themselves in to a frenzy over him.
Now, all of this sounds as though I’m defending Ronaldo, justifying his dive yesterday, but that really isn’t the case at all. I am looking for the reason why he would do such a stupid thing, rather than an excuse. How quick will the referee be to pull out a yellow card next weekend if Ronaldo goes down in the area, over the probability in which he’d award Ronaldo a penalty at Anfield? Whilst we can complain about referees, about Ronaldo’s reputation preceding him, there comes a point we have to acknowledge another factor. Ronaldo was a notorious diver, and he still is likely to commit the odd dive. Does that make him any more prone to kicking out his legs and going to ground than Steven Gerrard? No, I don’t believe so, but does that make it acceptable? Again, no, and it’s not only unacceptable, it is stupid for him to reinforce his bad reputation for no reason. If his dive had resulted in a winning goal, whilst still cheating, it would be more understandable. The resurrection of Ronaldo the diver will cost us deserved penalties and cost us points this season…but fortunately he wins us enough points for us that we don’t have to crucify him for it.
What do you think? Do the fouls Ronaldo has to endure justify him taking the odd dive? Or is he stupid to alert referees to his diving nature, particularly in a match that was already won?