Tag Archives: cristiano ronaldo

Roll With The Punches

Harry Maguire just cannot catch a break at present. Given his performances in an England shirt over the last few years, one might have expected the international break to provide some welcome respite from his current struggles at club level. Unfortunately not. Another error-strewn display against Germany means that his nightmare year continues. Having become a laughing stock on social media during United’s seasonus horribilis under Solskjaer and Rangnick, he’s now become a pariah of the national team too. 

Quite why Maguire evokes such animosity is a bit of a strange one. Compared to a lot of modern players he seems quite likeable and grounded to me. Unlike many of his peers, Maguire’s route to the top was fairly unconventional. He hasn’t grown up living a life of privilege in the academy system having been spotted as a school-age prodigy, he made it all the way to captain of Manchester United having spent a few years kicking around the lower leagues. It’s not quite the rags to riches career trajectory of Jamie Vardy say, but it’s still a path that’s become increasingly uncommon. 

There’s no denying that Maguire’s performances were uniformly abject for much of last season. He appeared to suffer a major hangover after the Euros and his form hasn’t recovered since. However, the fact he was playing alongside numerous teammates content to phone it in week after week didn’t exactly help matters. Although he was crap, I didn’t once get the impression that he didn’t care or that he’d given up. Others went missing entirely, but you couldn’t accuse Maguire of hiding or shirking responsibility at any point. Recall that whilst all this was occurring another high-profile, self-proclaimed leader of the team was holed up in Dubai nursing his hamstring for 3 months. 

The clamour to write him off at this point doesn’t make much sense to my mind, especially considering he played very well during his first 2 years at the club. He was overpriced at £80M certainly, but the player doesn’t set the transfer fee. Considering he’s spent most of his time here alongside a fragile keeper, extremely limited defensive colleagues and with a failing midfield in front of him, I honestly believe that he’s done okay. I certainly don’t think he’s in anyway more culpable than the rest of his teammates. Bruno Fernandes has been routinely garbage throughout the same period yet nobody is suggesting that he’s finished.

Maguire isn’t the first player to suffer like this and he shouldn’t lose any sleep about England fans selecting him as their MUFC-affiliated scapegoat in a World Cup year. He’s in good company here and would be wise to just bide his time and take his opportunities when they arise – which they will sooner rather than later given the congested fixture list and Varane’s inability to stay fit for any length of time. Also, he (or his family members) would be best advised to swerve journalists seeking off-the-record comments. Everyone is aware there are mitigating circumstances to his current form so there’s no need to actively brief against his teammates. You’re the captain, just own it and let your football do the talking. 

As he sat at the Etihad watching events unfold, Maguire might have been forgiven for being quietly relieved he was spared the latest indignity to befall United there. Once upon a time conceding 5 or 6 in a derby would have sent me spiralling off into a deep sulk, whereas these days I just shrug it off and crack on. There’s little point in getting down about it, they are simply miles ahead of everyone else currently. As unpalatable as the result was, United remain a team acclimatising to life under a new manager and with several new signings still finding their feet. After a miserable start to the season the last couple of months have provided a number of encouraging signs, so I refuse to abandon all hope yet. 

Nevertheless, the fact remains it was a complete abomination of a performance. The starting midfield was a disaster which left the defence totally exposed. Ten Hag looked on shaking his head but I’d have preferred for him to do something decisive. It was obvious what was occurring within the first 5 minutes as the team were all over the place. The loyalty shown to McTominay was totally misguided, especially considering he’s only a stop gap defensive midfielder and we had one of the world’s best sat on the bench. The funds were released to sign Casemiro after the debacle at Brentford, so why hold him back now given that deficiencies in this position persist?

I wasn’t confident pre-match, but then what sane person is watching this team? Similar to Gary Neville, a couple of misguided souls in the WhatsApp group got all giddy after an unbeaten September and predicted an away win. Instead, it was another of those days that have become commonplace in recent years; United looking utterly bamboozled when confronted by opponents playing with pace and intensity. Having more than matched Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks, I was faintly optimistic we might be past having complaints about lacking the fundamentals. Clearly this wasn’t to be the case. 

I think I first decided not to like Erling Haaland a few years ago, the minute I discovered he had signed up with Mino Raiola. As a result of that move I figured he would never join United and was therefore more than likely a bit of a bastard. I didn’t like his agent (RIP btw), I don’t like his dad, I don’t like his City and Leeds supporting childhood and I don’t like his smug-looking, leader-of-the-Hitler-youth-in-a-previous-life face. All completely ridiculous I know, but then that’s me. Consequently, the derby was the first time I’d ever seen him play. Verdict? Yes, I was completely right. Roll on his inevitable move to Spain in 3 or 4 years time. 

Ten Hags explanation as to why Ronaldo didn’t feature did little to suppress the chat around that current predicament. Why on earth wasn’t he encouraged to move on in the summer? Similar to the situation surrounding Pogba that proved a constant distraction over the last couple of seasons, United would be better served by informing Ronaldo he is free to leave the club given he’s no longer a first choice starter. An amicable solution needs to be found here, otherwise the noise surrounding the issue is only going to intensify over the coming months. It’s a sideshow that United could do without. 

One final shoutout this month to United’s ticket office, unwavering in their ability to dream up convoluted ways of making life as difficult as possible for their customers. When you’re thousands of miles from home, queuing to get into a game under the watchful eye of twitchy riot cops and stewards checking the passport of every single ticket holder, you start to question the sanity of everyone involved in such a farcical scene. It’s so over the top and completely unwarranted. Not one to brag or anything, but I’m finishing off this piece propped up on a sun lounger the morning after the night before in Cyprus. Despite the moans and constant hassles involved in following this team of ours, it’s at times like this you realise we’ve still got it better than most. Yamas!

Copyright Red News – October 2022

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The Second Coming


Even if the return of Ronaldo doesn’t prove to be a resounding success, the day of his re-signing will always be a memorable one. Personally speaking, I’d spent the preceding 72 hours doing my best to convince myself that I wasn’t bothered about his seemingly inevitable move to City. He’s 36, he’s obsessed with winning and he represents the exact opposite of United’s delayed gratification strategy of recruiting young players who’ll hopefully pay dividends in years to come. It made perfect sense for Ronaldo to go to City now, so there was no point getting wound up about it.

Instead, that fateful Thursday was absolutely brilliant. By lunchtime, those of us who keep half an eye on twitter at all times knew exactly what was occurring. It was a classic throwback to stealthy transfer deals of the past as the story quickly accelerated and it became clear he was heading back to OT. The fact City fans had spent the previous few days gleefully trumpeting his imminent arrival made it sweeter still. This was a classic triumvirate of shock, excitement and schadenfreude that rivalled Cantona’s signing in 1992. It all made for a gloriously entertaining afternoon in work as the story unfolded.

As the dust settles on the move, it looks like a masterstroke on face value. Shirt sales have increased, social media engagement numbers are through the roof and there’s no doubt Old Trafford is buzzing. In simple terms, watching Ronaldo patrol opposition penalty areas holds far more appeal than the prospect of Anthony Martial skulking around aimlessly for the next 2 years. Nevertheless, I can’t quite shake the feeling that something is off here. Was this signing motivated by a desire to improve the team or was it an attempt to quash dissent amongst the more fickle elements of the club’s fanbase?

I’d hazard a guess that most people reading this will be a little too invested in anti-Glazer sentiment to be silenced by the re-appearance of Ronaldo. The return of a beloved former player changes little. For many though, it appears the opposite is true. We shouldn’t underestimate how the scenes witnessed at the end of last season will have reverberated around the club’s corporate headquarters and prompted a major re-think. Despite hasty promises to engage with supporters, little has materialised beyond £3 bottles of Carling and some headline-generating player acquisitions. 

I don’t think the club are even attempting to get the likes of you or I onside at this point. The hasty addition of Ronaldo appears to be aimed squarely at the influencer/fancam crowd who for a brief moment put on-field matters to one side and got a little bit political. Instead of debating Martial or Rashford, suddenly they were all adorned in Green and Gold, fully-focused on the cancerous ownership that continues to siphon millions out of the club’s coffers. What better way to banish a growing air of mutiny and revolution than to deliver a smiling Cristiano back to his spiritual home for a victory lap. 

The club know how important it is to keep the influencer crowd onside. The numbers they engage with, particularly overseas, are unfathomably huge. The individuals themselves might lack credibility, they might not even be United supporters in certain cases, but they command a greater audience than most broadsheet journalists could ever dream of. It’s why they get press credentials and access to players, it’s why they’re seen on TV supposedly presenting the view of time-served United fans. They’re idiots, but they’re idiots with a lot of clout. They’re the main reason the club decided to bring Ronnie “home” at this precise point in time. 

I don’t believe for a minute that anyone at the club began the summer with any intention of re-signing Ronaldo. If he’d have been heading for PSG rather than across town, do you think United would have made any overtures towards Mendes? I very much doubt it. Solskjaer appeared to suggest that the club had looked at the prospect of re-signing the player numerous times in the dozen years since he left. Again, this doesn’t really ring true. Why was there no attempt to re-sign him in 2018 when he left Madrid? I guess United were too focused on securing the priority signatures of Fred, Dalot and Lee Grant instead. Of course they were. 

Ignoring Cristiano’s undoubted talents, once the decision was taken to retain Cavani for a further season, the last area of the squad that needed strengthening was up front. I know that Ronaldo offers guaranteed goals compared to the other contenders vying for a starting position, but it still seems frivolous to bring him in at the expense of a much-needed holding midfielder. Since Solskjaer took over, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in acquisitions and squad development. Don’t get me wrong, of course it’s exciting and it may well turn out to be a roaring success. I’m just extremely sceptical of the rationale behind it; it seems a complete reversal of any long-term strategy the club had in place. 

Predictably, rather than continuing to exert pressure on the Glazers, the focus of the YouTube contingent has shifted wholesale to Ronaldo. The Green & Gold being sported in May has been replaced with brand new replica shirts and any lingering frustrations are being directed towards the manager. The club probably exceeded their summer budget in securing Ronnie for the next 2 years, but given how the deal has extinguished all audible protest, clearly it’s money well spent. United’s legions of impressionable overseas fans have a new idol to post about and everyone is happy again. 

It’s all about the clicks these days and Ronaldo guarantees millions of these. The club’s twitter account announced the deal on at least 5 separate occasions in the space of 3 weeks, to the point it was getting embarrassing. It’s that weird FIFA-inspired phenomenon where certain players have become greater commodities than clubs themselves. This is the audience that the club is attempting to court here, the type of fan who measures success in terms of big name signings and memeable reveals. We see it constantly with Pogba and Martial, it doesn’t matter how execrable the performance, there’s always a legion of online cultists to defend their chosen one and pour scorn on anyone pointing out obvious failings. 

I appreciate that in raising these concerns, I may appear incredibly old and boring. That’s undoubtedly true. Perhaps I should place my brain in a jar and just go with it. Ronnie might go on to enjoy a miraculous Van Persie-style perfect season and inspire an unlikely title charge but I very much doubt it given the paucity of midfield options behind him. More likely, I’d suggest that when the novelty wears off we’ll start to see the deal for what it really is – a crowd-pleasing marketing tool designed to placate a justifiably angry fanbase. Viva Ronaldo, sure – though I suspect we might be the ones getting played here.

Copyright Red News – September 2021

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