One would imagine as Abraham Lincoln stood before his peers and warned a ‘house divided cannot stand’ to emphasise his belief that slavery had to come to an end, he wasn’t talking about multimillionaire Portuguese footballers.
When Cristiano Ronaldo decided that he preferred the Bernabeu to Old Trafford, he embarked on what can only be described as something of one man publicity tour/campaign to try and make the move happen, using the most dazzling array of surreptitious calls for a move he could muster.
One such utterance came in the form agreeing with Seep Blatter’s claim that United had treated Ronaldo like a modern-day slave, the then-Fifa President, obviously having not spent much time at a South Manchester car wash or Lancashire nail salon. What was even more ridiculous than Blatter’s bonkers blathering was the way Ronaldo agreed with him.
“I agree with the comments of the president of FIFA. What he said is right.” CR7 told Portuguese television, like a modern day Mahatma Gandhi, fighting the good fight for millionaire playboys everywhere.
Ronaldo’s merry dance finally came to an end in 2009 when he got his long fought for move to Real Madrid, after seemingly coming to an agreement with Sir Alex Ferguson that he’d give him one final season in 2008-09 before being sold on for a world record fee. As if making it blatantly clear he didn’t want to be at United any more wasn’t enough, Ronaldo then had the audacity to score the goal that crashed the Reds out of the Champions League in Sir Alex’s final campaign a few seasons later. The cheek. Yet, we all still loved him, we still sang his name, bizarrely even on the very night he cost us a realistic chance of winning Europe’s most coveted prize.
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There’s nothing wrong with a player leaving United, even for Real Madrid, after all they’re hardly our rivals in the historic and domestic sense of the word, plus the club got £80 million thrown into the bargain, it’s not Ronaldo’s fault it went in the Glazer’s pockets as dross like Gabriel Obertan and the semi-retired Michael Owen were brought into replace him.
What hurt most about Ronaldo leaving was the manner in which he engineered the move, making silly statements about only God knowing what the future held instead of just saying “I’m happy at United” it left a sour taste in the mouth for the summer following the epic 2007-08 season.
When Ronaldo did leave, he kept his popularity among many Reds for several reasons, first of all, we missed him, as the song says “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” and while we didn’t quite pave paradise and put up a tree museum, we certainly didn’t invest properly once he’d departed. This only added to the sense of nostalgia Ronaldo’s time at United evoked, then there was the fact he didn’t quite hit the ground running, in fact it was the Reds who ended up in the Champions League final again before Ronaldo did – although he’s since made up for it. Had Ronaldo left for Madrid and immediately won the lot while United plummeted his lustre may have dimmed somewhat, but he didn’t and it ain’t. Finally and perhaps more pertinently when many Reds see Ronaldo producing sublime skills and scoring stunning goals, it reminds us of what we used to witness at one point on a weekly-basis.
Ronaldo’s recent free-kick against Spain evoked memories of his strike against Portsmouth, although obviously beating David James shouldn’t really count as anything remotely in the same league as putting one past David De Gea.
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Over recent years, Reds have been bereft of real title challenges and realistic Champions League hopes so seeing a former player reaching untold heights, one who gave us our very own George Best for the millennial generation, it’s hard not to feel a sense of slight pride.
Yes Ronaldo could have handled his move a lot better, yes he was moody and self-obsessed, especially towards the end of his time at Old Trafford, but we got to see the world’s greatest player, becoming the greatest in the world and he won us a shedload of trophies along the way.
If fans of our rivals find that a bit sad, holla at us when your star wins you three titles, the FA Cup the World Club Cup, two League Cups and the Champions League, leaves and you all boo him, then we’ll talk.
Until then during the World Cup viva Ronaldo an all that…