The anger vented in Cristiano Ronaldo’s direction over the summer has slowly begun to disappear, with more and more fans jumping to the defence of the wantaway Portuguese winger.
Two goals from Ronaldo last night against West Ham only reinforce what an important player he is for our team, and whilst not at the centre of our performance, as he was last season, he was still in the right place at the right time to wrap up the points for United.
There is still a marked difference between this season and last though, but I’m starting to wonder how long it can last.
“Congratulations Ronaldo, the best player in the World!” said announcer, Alan Keegan, ahead of kick off. There was a round of applause from Old Trafford. Yet as Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand posed for pictures with their awards, Ronaldo’s for FIFPro’s Best Player and Ferdinand’s for a place in the FIFPro World XI, the crowd only had time for the defender. “Rio! Rio! Rio!” we chanted.
As the team list was read out, there was no special cheer for Ronaldo as there had been for the past two seasons, which used to signal our support for Cristiano in light of the boos that would be heard from the away end. He was cheered just like everyone else against West Ham, as he has been for our other home games so far this season.
Currently, we have a sensible approach towards Ronaldo. There’s no booing or jeering, rather indifference. He is treated just like any one else at the club, which is in contrast to last season, where he was singled out for special adulation.
In all our prior matches, his songs were sung only when he scored a goal. Last night, he scored two goals, so two renditions of “Viva Ronaldo” were heard. However, as the minutes started to trickle away, sections of the Stretford End could seen twizzling their scarves and singing his song. It was by no means of the magnitude he enjoyed last season, but maybe he is now making the breakthrough with the fans.
Time is a great healer and it stands to reason that the more goals Ronaldo scores, the better his performances become, then the less we will resent him for the fuss in the summer. For me, it still frustrates me massively that a summer which should have been spent with everyone cooing over our English and European success instead focussed on which club Ronaldo would be playing for in September. Yet that doesn’t make me any less happy to see United pick up three points, even if Ronaldo’s name is on the scoresheet.
I am proud for the stance our fans have made, whilst accepting that it can’t last forever. Just look at those mugs down the road in Merseyside, who hail a man who handed in two transfer requests to his supposedly beloved club as a hero. It’s important to note that throughout the summer, at no point did Ronaldo say he didn’t want to play for United anymore, something Steven Gerrard has done twice to Liverpool. Yet after the ashes from the burnt replica shirts were swept away, they were more than happy to welcome him back once the decision had been made to stay.
Here reads a report from The Mirror taken from the first game after Gerrard went back on his request to leave.
It wasn’t quite Istanbul in May, but the sight of Steven Gerrard once more parading the European Cup in a Liverpool shirt was enough to take the Kop Army to Wrexham.
Less than a week after Anfield fans reacted to the revelation that talks aimed at securing the future of the Liverpool skipper had broken down by burning replica Gerrard shirts outside the Shankly Gates, thousands of them turned out to reassure him that he is forgiven.
With a new £100,000-a-week contract now signed, sealed and delivered to keep him at Liverpool for the peak years of his career, Gerrard’s concern was whether he would be made to pay for the 24- hour aberration which saw him turn his back on his home-town club.
He need not have worried. From the moment he walked out on to the Racecourse Ground for a friendly hastily arranged to give the Merseysiders some match practice ahead of the midweek Champions League qualifier against Welsh minnows TNS, he was greeted like the local hero he is.
I’m so proud our fans haven’t been mugs. However we choose to proceed from this point, whether it’s singing Ronaldo’s song every match, or whether we restrict it just to when he scores, I am full of admiration for the stance we have taken. We have let it be known we don’t find it unacceptable for him to want out, following all the support we have shown him over the years, and certainly not in the manner he went about it.
In contrast, Liverpool fans have basically said “do whatever the fuck you like, we will adore you regardless.” The fact that Gerrard is a scouser makes the situation all the worse. Can you imagine the likes of Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes handing in transfer requests at their peak? Ronaldo owes us nothing and we’ve known all along one day he would return to Spain. But Gerrard is one of their own, yet he still fought harder than even Ronaldo did to get away from the club, on two occasions. Yet what did the Liverpool fans have to say about it? Nothing.
“Steven has told us he will not accept our offer of an improved and extended contract because he wants to leave,” a Liverpool club statement read at the time.
United turned down a bid from Real Madrid and Ronaldo decided to stay. When Liverpool turned down a bid from Chelsea, Gerrard handed in a transfer request. Yet United fans have voiced their unhappiness at this situation, Liverpool fans just let Gerrard get on with it. No one man should be bigger the club, football pundits like to remind us of, but how can Liverpool claim this to be the case of Gerrard? We’ve shunned a player who scored 42 goals in 47 games last season, yet they didn’t have the balls to have a go at a supposedly “dyed in the wool” supporter, who handed in two requests to leave, with the intention of signing for bloody Chelsea, of all clubs!
So, now that we’ve made our point, made Ronaldo very aware of our feelings towards him, do you think we will soften to him? It may just start with small crowds in the Stretford End singing his song, but finish with Old Trafford on their feet in worship of him again. Do you think this is a possibility, or has Ronaldo blown any chance of having the support of last season again?