Cristiano Ronaldo has been criticised for failing to show up for the big games, and some would say he did little to enhance that reputation today against Arsenal. In his four years at the club, his goal scoring highlights can be summed up with the goal during the derby day FA Cup tie in 2004, the two goals he got against Arsenal at Highbury in 2005, the two goals in the European Cup quarter-final against Roma in 2007, and the goal he scored against Milan in the semi-final, also in 2007. Not a lot to write home about really.
Whilst he can rip most teams apart, he can go AWOL against the bigger clubs, in the bigger games, which is as frustrating as it is disappointing. He often doesn’t release the ball when he should, he loses the ball in silly areas, and gives up possession too easily. His contribution to our title winning season was massive, priceless even, but where was he when we faced the difficult opposition?
Today, he had a bad game at the Emirates, and again disappointed. For the most part, he just wasn’t in the game, and was pushed off the ball far too easily. There were grumbles around the local when time and again he lost possession, and there seemed to be large chunks of the game where he just didn’t touch the ball.
But amidst the criticism, and the longing for him to play better, it could be quite easily forgotten that if it wasn’t for Cristiano Ronaldo today, we would have ended the day with nothing. It was his cross in to Rooney, after shrugging off the defender, that took is in to the lead, and his tap in which gave us the lead again. Whilst you’d imagine any player could have put the ball in the back of the net from there, it was Ronaldo’s footballing brain which lead him to the perfect spot in the area, away from the defenders, and free for Evra to pass to.
Yes, we do need more from Ronaldo in the big games, and yes, I would like to see him doing the business against Chelsea the way he would Bolton, but for now, a goal and an assist at the ground boasting the best record in the league this season, will do for me!