Steven Gerrard, who missed one of the penalties that saw England knocked out of the last World Cup, deflected any possible negative attention away from himself and in the direction of Ronaldo instead.
“If it was one of my team-mates, I’d be absolutely disgusted in him because there’s no need for that,” said Gerrard. “I’ve seen Ronaldo going over giving the card and I think he’s bang out of order. I think that sums him up as a person. If I was playing against my team-mates from Liverpool and they were involved in a situation like that, I’d never try and get them sent off.”
Gerrard’s opinion summed up the opinion of England. It was quickly forgotten than Liverpool men Carragher and Gerrard, as well as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, missed their penalties in the shootout, and all blame landed on the shoulders of United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. No mention was given to the fact Ronaldo was one of five Portuguese players surrounding the ref.
Gerrard might claim he wouldn’t behave in the same way if it was his team mate, but I am curious as to what the English reaction would have been if this is true.
Imagine he thought a Portuguese player who also played for Liverpool stamped on the bollocks of John Terry. Had Gerrard stayed away, despite being right next to the incident, whilst his English team mates reacted furiously, what would that have said about his commitment to England? Surely him putting his club team mate ahead of his country, when playing for England in the World Cup, would have been despicable.
Whilst the country was ready to have Ronaldo hung, drawn and quartered, Manchester United supported him entirely.
In the weeks that followed, United rallied behind England’s scapegoat, publicly supporting him time and again.
“I bear no ill feeling to Cristiano but am disappointed that he chose to get involved,” he said. “I suppose I do though have to remember that on that particular occasion we were not team-mates.”
Going above and beyond what anyone could have expected from Rooney, he went on to say that he felt for Ronaldo missing out on a Player of the Tournament award.
“The thing that disappointed me is that Ronaldo should have won the Young Player of the Tournament, but I think that with all the criticism he got he had it taken away from him,” he added. “I was disappointed and everyone at the club was disappointed for him. He had a good tournament and I don’t think he should have had it taken away because of that.”
Sir Alex Ferguson
“David Beckham came back after the World Cup in 1998 and had it, while Eric Cantona had it all the time – everywhere he went,” he said. “They can only boo for so long, and if you’re playing well and winning, it quietens them down. There will be no problem with Cristiano and it certainly didn’t affect him when he was booed at the World Cup. He reacted positively and played well. He’s got a fantastic attitude and he’s a really strong character.”
“You know, I saw the incident after the game with Portugal and I saw exactly what happened with what Wayne did and I saw exactly what Cristiano’s reaction was,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with Cristiano for that, I went and swapped shirts with him after that. The English will always come up with excuses and scapegoats for why they haven’t won and this time it was Cristiano. The reason we lost the game was because Wayne got sent off, which he knows about, we didn’t score the penalties and we didn’t get the goal. It was nothing to do with Cristiano why we didn’t win that tournament. We always protect our own, right the way back to David Beckham coming back from a tournament, my brother in 2000, it has always been the case where United will protect its own players. It happened again this summer with Cristiano and Wayne, but he is at the right place and he’ll be protected by the manager, who is brilliant at doing that. The players will never have any problem. What happens in an international game has got nothing to do with what happens at Manchester United.”
Sir Bobby Charlton
“He is only a young lad,” he said. “He is inexperienced and doesn’t know a lot about the game. But he will come back better because of this. It is going to be tricky for him at the beginning but he is a great player and that is what people should focus on. He wants to be successful. The more he thinks about it, the more he will realise he is in the right place.”
“All it proves is that you are a good player,” he said. “The opposition fans are trying to put you off your game because they realise you are a danger. That is what will happen to Cristiano. But he is a strong character and a talented player. All he can do is keep putting in the performances on the pitch and hope it all settles down after a while. We are used to things like these. David Beckham had it and Eric Cantona had it. The players get around it by having a joke to make the person concerned feel a bit more relaxed about it. That is all you can do really.”
“There have been no problems between Wayne and Ronaldo,” he said. “It’s actually been quite funny at times the circus that has gone on. Obviously, they weren’t team-mates at the time, they were trying to do their best for their countries. But they’re back now, they’re team-mates again and they are looking forward to the season starting. Look at the way he (Ronaldo) has come back into training, and with some of the goals he has scored already in pre-season. It’s just been fantastic to see him back in action and I feel he is going to be a big player for us this season, a major threat. I know he has been vilified, but so have other players over the years. The club are used to dealing with it.”
“We expect some players like Cristiano are going to get some stick,” he said. “The only thing he can do is show his quality. At least the United fans supported him on Tuesday, so that is good.”
“I am sure Cristiano will continue to have great support,” he said. “The fans have always got behind players who have had a hard time and I am sure it will be the same with him.”
Ronaldo started the season brilliantly, and before the start of the next year, had scored 12 goals. United went on to win the league and Ronaldo was crowned the PFA and Footballer Writers Player of the Year.
Clearly the support Ronaldo received, from the club and fans alike, had a massive impact on the player. In the September of that season, Ronaldo spoke fondly of the club.
“It is true that before returning to Manchester after the World Cup I said in an interview that I might leave,” Ronaldo said. “But then I realised this was a club that had given me a lot of support, where I had won a lot of things, and I analysed the situation once again. I spoke to my agent and then Sir Alex Ferguson and I took a calm decision and decided to stay. I want the fans to remember me with affection, to say I was one of the club’s great players. The problems of the past have long gone. I am very happy at this club and I want to stay here.”
Sadly, it appears as though Ronaldo has a short memory, and could be willing to pack in his United career after they have aided him in becoming the best in the World.
Whether Ronaldo leaves this summer or not, it is sickening to think of how well he has been treated by the club, and how little he appreciates that now. To allow the press to play this ‘will he won’t he’ game is totally disrespectful to United and our fans.
Imagine the same situation had ensued with Ronaldo as a Real Madrid player, and it was Raul who was given his marching orders. He’d be on the first plane out of Madrid, paid for eagerly by the club.
If only Ronaldo could see what he could be losing…