Martin Samuel has written an article for The Daily Mail which basically sees nothing but doom for the future of Manchester United if Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave.
He believes that “Ronaldo’s final year in English football that is being re-imagined as a failure”, which I assume is the feeling that comes across because United fans haven’t been too bothered to see him go. However, our feelings on Ronaldo’s final season have little to do with goals and assists but more to do with attitude and commitment. Of course we know how good he is but that doesn’t mean we can’t be pleased to say goodbye.
The idea that United are better off without him, or that he can be easily replaced, is too far-fetched.
Are United better off without a player who wants to be in Madrid? Without question, of course we are. Ronaldo won’t be replaced because that’s what happens with great players. Have we ever replaced like for like what Cantona brought to the team? No. Replaced the effect Keane had on our players? No. Replaced Ruud with a 150 goals in 219 games striker? No. Instead, we’ve strengthened in other areas and improved our squad as a whole. Some players can’t be replaced but that doesn’t mean we can’t go on to be more successful without them.
Ruud was our top scorer and the second highest scorer in the league. He left, we didn’t bring anyone in to replace him, yet the following season we scored more goals and finished a position higher in the league. Were we better off without Ruud? Certainly, but nobody predicted that when he left.
To dismiss his involvement as the odd good game, or the fortunate bounty of his selfish streak, is to forget the hold Chelsea had on English football when Jose Mourinho was first in charge. United could not get near them until Ronaldo came good. On April 29, 2006, Chelsea won a second consecutive league title by demolishing United 3-0. The next season Ronaldo found another 10 goals from somewhere and the balance of power swung to Old Trafford. The positive reaction to his departure is almost wantonly bizarre with many joining Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister – and there is the warning, straightaway – in predicting that United will emerge stronger, as if losing the World Player of the Year is going to make your club more appealing to the best players.
I find this totally odd. I haven’t read any write-ups on Ronaldo which claim he made no difference to United. However you feel about Ronaldo, there is no denying how important he’s been to our club and whilst plenty of people are happy he’s going, everybody recognises how well he did for the club. He was our top scorer in the 06/07 season when we finally reclaimed our trophy and the third highest scorer in the league. He was the Premiership top scorer in the 07/08 season and in the season just gone he missed out on top spot by one goal, despite missing the first month of the season. However, whilst we recognise the changes he made to United, it is not logical to expect this impact can go on forever and ever.
Ronaldo found the extra 10 goals thanks to the absence of Ruud. Rooney found an extra four goals. We bought Michael Carrick who added 6 goals. Scholes brought four more goals than the season before whilst Fletcher added another two on from the previous season’s tally, and I could go on. That’s what happens. You don’t replace the greatest of players but if your squad is good enough, which ours is, the rest of the players pull their weight. So we’ll lose Ronaldo’s goals but we’ll find them from somewhere, just as we did with Ruud’s.
Ronaldo was allowed to be the centre of everything which gave him more opportunities to score, just as Ruud was. Now we’ll have a new focus to the team, probably Wayne Rooney, and if he can stay injury free I certainly wouldn’t bet against him improving his goal tally for next season. I also wouldn’t bet against Dimitar Berbatov doing the same.
We emerged as a stronger team following the departure of our most prolific goalscorer, without even replacing him, so why would it be so bizarre to believe we’d emerge stronger without Ronaldo, a player who has made Manchester United all about him, who has stropped and sulked his way through matches and who has made little to no effort to track back all season? Of course Ronaldo is bloody brilliant but he wasn’t perfect and there were certainly negative aspects to his game which I’m glad to see the back of.
Although there was something Samuel wrote that I did agree with: Judging by the reaction, he is better off at Real Madrid. We didn’t deserve him anyway, that useless 67-goal, best footballer you’ll ever see at your ground, mate, peacock.
For all the jeers and boos and taunts Ronaldo received, I’ve always said the Premiership don’t deserve Ronaldo (just like the England set up don’t deserve Rooney). Last season they got to see the greatest footballer in the World and instead of enjoying that, they just called him a wanker, over and over again. Now Spain have the three best players in the World and I wonder what fans of other Premiership clubs make of that. Maybe they’re not arsed as long as United have lost their most effective player, but it shows how football has changed, given the reaction the George Best got at away grounds in his day.
What do you make of Samuel’s assessment?