Tuesday 15 November 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo is right but also oh so very wrong

Alejandro Garnacho smashed through the ceiling and catapulted himself into the national spotlight with his late heroics at Fulham.

The Monday morning papers should have been full of superlatives for the young Spanish-born Argentine, but it was a man almost 20 years his senior who - inevitably - grabbed the headlines.
Shortly after 10pm on Sunday, the internet broke and the world's collective jaws dropped to the floor. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of this club's greatest ever players and arguably the finest ever exponent of his craft, spoke. He spoke damningly and at length. Even his choice of interviewee was questionable, but what he said overshadowed everything which had gone before.
Yet here's the thing. You won't find a single Manchester United fan, myself included, who would disagree with 98% of what he said. We've been saying the facilities have been in urgent need of investment for years. Nothing has changed in 20 years whilst our rivals have modernised, upgraded and left us for dead. Old Trafford's leaking roof is a testament to that and the players are still using facilities they had during Ronaldo's first spell at the club back in the 00s. He feels the club has stagnated and has failed to move with the times, with the setup exactly the same as it was when he left. 
That is a concern - particularly when it comes to enticing new talent into the club - but doesn't come as a surprise. It is what we already knew. Old Trafford looks great on TV but in reality it's a run-down relic, pickled in aspic and has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. It's a shit hole and a damning indictment of the board's ineptitude. 

 His extraordinary attack on the club's running (or, more pertinently, lack thereof) carried enormous weight. Again, you can't argue with it. We've been saying the same for years - we know the Glazers don't give a s**t, we know they see United as a cash cow, an asset to bleed dry and not a global institution to take care of, to cherish and to protect. You'd like to think hearing all this from the mouth of the world's biggest global sports star will make them squirm. Then again, they are thick-skinned and oblivious to everything around.

If Ronaldo had left things at that, and if his words had helped to force the hated and much malinged Yanks to put the club up for sale, it would only embellish his legacy. We'd have loved him even more - he would be worthy of a statue and having a stand named after him. If he'd ended the interview there, the love and adoration for this man at our club would have lasted for eternity. 

But then again, nothing he said was new.  All of this has been blindingly obvious for years, so why he felt the need to say it is beyond me. Many pundits and former players have suggested both the timing and the tone of the interview - as the domestic season pauses for the World Cup -  is to make his position at United untenable and force through an exit in January. 

As refreshing as it was to hear someone of such stature call out the club's hierarchy for what they are, Ronaldo has made a huge and fatal error of judgement. His comments on Wayne Rooney and Reds manager Erik ten Hag has sent him past the point of no return. To accuse the club of 'betraying him' is very rich indeed coming from the man who failed to turn up to training, refused to come on as a sub, left the ground early twice, lied, and then felt the need to air his dirty linen in public. Oh, plus the fact he almost signed for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

This coming from the man who said he was 'a slave' the last time he was here. He cannot handle the fact he is no longer the main man. He could have said any of this at any point last season but he was in the team then, and scoring goals. He doesn't like the fact new talents such as Garnacho have taken centre stage and can't accept the fact his star is on the wane. Don't forget, too, ten Hag integrated him back into the side after his antic in the Tottenham game and made him captain against Aston Villa. 

It is a huge shame this will be the over-riding memory of his time at United. It is all anyone will ever remember which is some going considering this is a player with 145 goals in 346 games for us. A player who had surely the greatest season in modern times with his astonishing 42-goal haul in 2007-08 to inspire us to the double. Yet the memories of those wonderful times, those heady days with Ronaldo and the Reds at the summit of English football, have been eviscerated almost overnight with the damage he has done. The minute you publicly criticise your manager, there can be no way back. Ronaldo is done. He has surely played his last game for Manchester United. He is in breach of contract and has brought the club into disrepute. Despite everything that's happened, Ronaldo will always be held in high regard at Old Trafford: no one, probably least of all him, wanted things to end like this. 

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