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The Boy Who Cried Wolf – Ronaldo Pays The Price

When thinking of Ronaldo, the boy who cried wolf springs to mind. When he joined the club as a skinny teenager, he brought his European tactics of diving along with him. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for one moment suggesting that diving is a foreign activity to English players (eh, Stevie Me? Joe Cole? Etc.), but Ronaldo was far more obvious with it, therefore, far more irritating to the fans, our own and rivals alike. He might have been fouled, or there might have been no contact at all, but it wouldn’t stop Ronaldo from falling in such a dramatic way, that at times, left us as United fans rather embarrassed.

The summer before last, when watching United’s pre-season tour in Asia, I noticed that Ronaldo had really bulked up. He didn’t look like the waif of a teenage winger we’d had before, but rather a strong looking man. His shoulders were much broader and he was carrying extra muscle. He had been transformed, both physically, and likely, mentally as well. This pre-season tour followed the World Cup in which Ronaldo had been singled out as the reason why England had been knocked out. He was being abused in the street, the homes of his relatives as well as his own were vandalised, and he wasn’t far away from upping and leaving for the sunshine and hassle-free life Spain offered him.

Ronaldo started the season the most hated man in England, booed every time his name on the team sheet was read out, and every time he even got close to the ball. This period in Ronaldo’s life was the best thing that could have happened for United. The transformation was complete. Ronaldo was bigger and tougher, Ronaldo was not only physically more able to stay on his feet, but consciously made an effort to do so, Ronaldo was kicked from pillar to post in every match he played, but kept his cool and gave everything he could, and thanks to our booing and whistling rivals fans, Ronaldo now had a point to prove and motivation to do so…Ronaldo was becoming one of the greatest players in the World.

Sir Alex Ferguson has time and again called for better protection from the referees, who seem to waft away far too many fouls when Ronaldo is the victim. It is by pure good fortune that we have yet to lose him to a serious injury when considering how many times he is fouled in a game. The opposition fans urge for their players to foul him and cheer when they do so. The player who sticks it to Ronaldo is celebrated by their fans, and the referees do too little to stop it.

Yesterday, as we sat in the cold and damp Manchester weather, watching our team effortlessly brush aside Fulham, who looked to be defeated before a kick of the ball, Ronaldo shone all over the field. I’d argue Rooney had a better game, working tirelessly for the team until he was substituted, Ronaldo was the player who gave us the points, scoring once in each half. Ronaldo has now scored thirteen goals in sixteen games, which is remarkable for any player, let alone a winger. Before last night, he had scored two goals a game on three occasions this season, desperately seeking the United hatrick which has eluded him so far.

With ten minutes to go last night, it appeared as though Ronaldo was finally going to get his wish, as he went to take the ball around Fulham keeper Niemi, who had flown prematurely out of his goal. The keeper dived to the ground getting nothing on the ball, forcing Ronaldo to jump over him, falling to the ground. The referee waved play on. Every person in the stadium could see it was a penalty, apart from the men that counted, the linesman (who had a shocking game. I have yet to see the highlights, but there appeared to be a ridiculous number of dreadfully wrong offside decisions!), and the ref. As United fans jumped from the seats, assuming the only decision the referee could make was to point to the spot, we were fuming when the referee pulled out the yellow card to book Ronaldo for diving. Isn’t Styles the big man, the celebrity, denying United a penalty in front of the Stretford End. It’s a load of bollocks and I’m sick of it.

Ferguson was also left fuming over the decision, although it matter little, considering the three points were in the bag “The penalty kick incident is a result of perceived idea of the referee that Ronaldo dives,” said Ferguson. “In fairness to the referee Niemi got him booked. Why would he dive? He’s on a hat-trick. It was a ridiculous decision. It was the wrong decision, but at the end of the day we’ve won the game.”

Frank Stapleton makes the obvious argument, as it seems logic is too much to ask from some referees. Why would Ronaldo dive to win a penalty, when if clearing the goalkpeer, he had an open net to score in? “It was a definite penalty. From where I was sat in the ground, the player knocked the ball past the goalkeeper and went round him. There was no point in diving to the ground as he was putting the ball into an empty net. There wasn’t a Fulham defender close by and there was contact. The goalkeeper couldn’t really get out of the way, but I think the referee made a mistake. It’s a pity because I think Ronaldo has taken diving out of his game now. When he first came into the Premier League he went down very easily because that was part of his culture in Portugal. But now he’s a much more mature player. That was a guaranteed hat-trick for him because even if you win the penalty, you can’t be sure that you’ll score. So I think it was a very harsh decision.”

However, this isn’t the first time United have been denied a stonewall penalty at Old Trafford this season, despite the myths surrounding our ground. I’m not foolish enough to think that referees haven’t looked upon us favourably, particularly at Old Trafford, over the years. Whilst of course no bitter takes in to account we’ve been the most successful attacking team over the past fifteen years, so simple probability suggest we’ll win more penalties than most teams, we have had our fair share of softer penalties during the latest golden period. However, since the big hoo-hah has kicked off over refereeing decisions at Old Trafford in the past few years, it appears as though referees enjoy waving away perfectly reasonable penalty claims. They love being the centre of attention, proving that not all referees buy in to the magic of the Theatre of Dreams, and they won’t be swayed by our 76,000 crowd. The fact they are failing to make the correct decision and award us the penalty for a foul seems to pass them by.

Before Mike Dean lost the plot when refereeing the game between us and Chelsea at Old Trafford this year, Patrice Evra was denied a stone wall penalty after Joe Cole took him out (the player who was guilty of two red card offences that day, but managed to leave the field at the end of the match with just a yellow). The Independent comments on Dean’s “erratic decision” in failing to award us a penalty for Cole’s “crude foul” on Evra. Less than twenty minutes had been played, and Dean just didn’t have the bottle to become another statistic, knowing if he awarded that penalty in front of the Stretford End, with just over fifteen minutes played, he would also have to send Joe Cole off. He just didn’t have the nerve. It was his inability to make this decision which likely lead to the fuss that followed, sending off Mikel, failing to send off Joe Cole a second time for a awful foul on Ronaldo etc. He was performing a balancing act between wrong decision after wrong decision. If only he was man enough to give that penalty on seventeen minutes, he might have seen a more favourable write-up of his performance the following day in the press.

Michael Brown, remember him? The thug who stamped on Giggsy on the opening day of last season and got away with just a yellow card? Well now playing for Wigan, he should have seen his side concede a penalty after just four minutes earlier this season. He simply barged Ronaldo over in the box, making no effort to go for the ball. Who didn’t have the balls this time? Our old friendly Mike Riley. “Referee Mike Riley’s inexplicable decision not to award Ronaldo an early penalty, when he collected the rebound and was instantly bundled over by Michael Brown, was also significant,” said Sky Sports. “Ronaldo gathered up the loose ball and looked to be clearly fouled by Michael Brown, but referee Mike Riley waved play on,” said the BBC. It was The Independent who I believe phrased it best, saying that Ronaldo “is now suffering like the boy who cried wolf – or in his case “penalty” – being denied legitimate appeals because of his reputation. Early in the game, Michael Brown simply barged him over in the penalty area without punishment.”

Ronaldo is the constant victim, after being wrongly framed as England’s World exit villain, coupled with the judgement he receives based on how he played as a boy, rather than how he actually players now, as a man. People who watch United week in week out, our fans, can see the difference in the player. Bitters and WUMs still harp on about his diving ways, but all you have to do is watch the player to see that he has virtually cut it out of his game. He can still be guilty of going down to ground too easily at times, but with foul after foul being waved on, I don’t begrudge him the decision to go down under a weaker foul, in hope that finally the ref will give him a break. He is certainly not alone in that regard, and you can point the finger at nearly every Premiership player for that.

Ronaldo appears to continue to go on from strength to strength, and is now the joint highest scorer in the league (despite the three match ban he faced for a red card against Pompey). I can only praise his attitude on the pitch, rarely reacting despite being the constant focus of rival antagonism and referee unfairness. But it’s about time he was cut some slack, and referees grew some balls, allowing themselves to award Ronaldo a penalty without fear of the fierce media reaction they anticipate. Until then, Ronaldo is going to have to keep on with what he does best, playing the game, and hopefully sooner rather than later he’ll get his deserved hatrick.

What do you think? Does Ronaldo still dive or is he not being protected enough by referees?


 

8 Comments

  1. jsos says:

    very impressed with this article. It’s rare to get to see your player grow up in front of you.. and even more so as quickly as Ronaldo has. However, he continues to surprise and impress as he took the high road in his comments on the call. Kept it short with the press and will do his talking on the pitch… as he’s proven time and again is his way.

  2. Taehr says:

    The situation was difficult for the ref as i didnt see any contact.ronaldo went over the keeper which cant be classified as a dive.im not too sure wat the rules are on such instances but to book ronaldo for avoiding niemi was pathetic.when u compare the way liverpool get penalties with gerrard at the forefront you wonder what referees want to give a penalty.as for the performance it was superb.although i cant believe the amount of missed chances we get.especially tevez.we could get punished against better quality teams

  3. Liam says:

    Great article, this is so true. I was at the Wigan match and I saw that it was a stonewall foul and I was down the other side of the stadium. However last night was a weird one because there’s no doubt that Niemi got in his way but the fact that there was no contact made would have confused the ref and he can’t give it if he is in any doubt but to book him was appalling

  4. Stretty T2 Betting Boy says:

    Rob Styles is a classic ‘even things up’ referee. He went into the match with the view that he was going to be hard on United after what happend when we had him last time at Villa. He sent off Carson and Reo-Coker in that game – arguably both were correct by the letter of the law, but looked harsh because of the game situation – United had already won it and were cruising. So when Ronaldo went down for a second time and looked up for a decision, he showed the yellow card. It was not a stonewall penalty but it was certainly not a dive either. Let’s hope the media attention this meaningless incident has earned will persuade future refs that no.7 is not a cheat.

  5. OMelhorDoMundo says:

    I was so sick when I saw Setanta’s poll saying “Did Ronaldo dive?”
    How about “Did Steven Gerrard dive” after his penalty against Everton or his freekick against Spurs.
    The English press enjoy glorifying captain John Terry’s courage and such but won’t hesitate when given the opportunity to call Ronaldo a diver. If the poll had said “Did the ref get it wrong?” that wouldn’t have denounced their intentions.

    Ronaldo has cut out diving from his game. He might fall down after a soft foul but I wouldn’t be resisting fifty challenges a game either.

  6. PG says:

    I think its fair to say that Ronaldo paid the price for his antics in his previous seasons. There are youtube videos out there which highlight those antics and unfortunately it will take time to shake it all off. This country is biased against foreigners and favorable to English players. So when an Alan Shearer or a Stevie Me commit tackling fouls, it is accepted as normal English style of play, but if a foreigner is dribbling his way around when fouled, he is considered to have dived. Utter Bollocks.

    Oh and I dont think Ronaldo deserved the card for that “dive” on Monday.

  7. Joel says:

    I am sick of just about every premier league referee I’ve seen, apart from perhaps Howard Webb (though I suspect that has more to do with his being in the league for a relatively short time). They are either completely muddle-headed, have their common sense totally blinkered, or have a overwhelming sense of inferiority they so love to propel themselves into the spotlight. I’m sure I saw Rob Styles smile after showing Ronaldo the yellow card.

    Styles’ performance brings back memories of Uriah Rennie, who loved frolicking around the pitch, always posturing himself for the cameras. How can any referee deny such a certain penalty, if not to be celebrated (or at least, to be noticed)?

    For me, whether there was contact between Ronaldo and Niemi is irrelevant. The fact is that Niemi had laid an insurmountable obstacle for a sprinting Ronaldo by sprawling on the ground, arms up high. Ronaldo could have ran straight into Niemi, tumbled over, and risked injury to both players. Or he could have tried to jump over Niemi, which he sensibly did. Unfortunately, that has given his gesture semblance to a dive. Whether Niemi had intended to bring Ronaldo down is also irrelevant. That he dived and obstructed Ronaldo at all mandates a penalty.

    It is nauseating that such a clearcut and obvious decision for me has been hotly debated by the media. If this warrants mention, then surely Gerrard’s swan dive against Everton does as well. Even the English media’s favourite Iron Man John Terry has been culpable of cheating time and again with his habit of raising his arms in the penalty area – of course, with impunity. Because, why in the world would the honourable English captains Terry and Gerrard ever cheat?

    I hope for a referee who could officiate a match without bias, without any preconceived notions or expectations of players, and who would also employ his common sense to the best of his ability. Very likely, in vain.

  8. denton davey says:

    I have now seen that incident a dozen times – or more – and I think that there actually was slight contact by Niemi on Ronaldo’s left leg which was enough to thrown CR7 off balance.

    Of rather more significance, however, is the almost complete lack of “protection” afforded to this kid. He gets kicked in every game and rarely replies but is NEVER intimidated.

    Kinda like Georgie Best in his pomp, Ronaldo seems to regard getting fouled by his marker as a sign of “respect” since the marker has made it clear that he can only stay with CR7 if he fouls him.

    To say that Ronaldo has “matured” or “grown up” is somewhat beside the main point that this kid has always had unbelievable talent (like Anderson) and has now grown into his mature game.

    From the very first time I saw CR7, I just knew that this guy was really going to be “the next George Best”. Maybe even better since Ronaldo seems to have a passion for football that Georgie lost.

    And, of course, he’s almost never given the benefit of the doubt by referees and is castigated by fools like Southgate.

    It’s to Lawrie Sanchez’s credit that he basically refused to be drawn into the tabloid press witch-hunt.

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