There were plenty of doubters among the press and social media when 36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United this summer, but his two-goal man of the match performance against Newcastle United yesterday should have silenced them all.
Somehow, in a grumbling display of misery and negativity befitting of Graeme Souness at his finest, Guardian reporter Jonathan Wilson managed to report that the Portuguese star’s debut was something to be concerned about.
First, he starts by criticising the manager.
‘Any questions about why United have gone eight seasons without a league title despite spending half a billion pound … can be deferred for another few months, deflected by the same nostalgic wishful thinking that dilutes criticism of Ole Gunnar Solskjær even though he is the longest-serving United manager not to win a trophy since Dave Sexton,’ Wilson said, suggesting that the circus has come to town simply to take our minds off real football matters.
He then questions ‘the wisdom of paying a 36-year-old £500,000 a week when there apparently wasn’t money available to bolster a midfield that looks increasingly shabby beside the glitz elsewhere in the squad.’
This conveniently ignores the fact that Ronaldo’s commercial appeal means that the megastar’s arrival has largely paid for itself already.
‘Might this hamper the development of Mason Greenwood? Might Ronaldo’s presence impede the creativity of Bruno Fernandes, who has been so vital to United recently but with whom there has been no evidence he can play with Portugal?
Did Greenwood and Fernandes look hampered, Jonathan?
United do not need Ronaldo’s goals, Wilson claims, saying that their problem is ‘the clunkiness of the midfield, the lack of coherence that mean[s] they could be thwarted by solid if unspectacular teams – Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sheffield United, Villarreal …
‘There were alarming signs in the first half that Ronaldo might exacerbate that problem,’ he claims, citing the star’s shot into the side netting as evidence of the above and suggesting that it was selfish.
‘Might his reluctance to press expose that threadbare midfield against better sides?’ he adds, almost hopefully.
And despite another excellent performance from Paul Pogba, which included his seventh assist in four games, Wilson argues that ‘if Ronaldo’s arrival and the need to accommodate the stars means Pogba playing more games at the back of midfield, United are extremely vulnerable to the counter.’
The reporter is also unable to contain his personal dislike of Ronaldo, infusing the article with petty personality attacks.
‘He celebrated goals with that characteristic spread of the arms and thrust of the groin, a sort of macho version of Lionel Blair indicating he’s miming the title of a song,’ the reporter said, referencing a 1980s game show.
‘When he jogged out to warm up, cleverly maximising his exposure by positioning himself behind Donny van de Beek, a player of translucent appearance and reputation, there was another visceral cheer.
‘He responded with practised casualness, acknowledging the two long sides of the ground with applause and a raised thumb.
‘A self-confident club, perhaps, might not have such a need to reinvoke past glories.’
‘Ronaldo strutted among his people.’
Whilst most United fans will agree that a world class holding midfielder would improve this United side, this hostile diatribe is almost laughable in its bitterness. Whatever your thoughts are on Ronaldo, United, or their being reunited, the only valid response to yesterday’s performance is surely to sit back and applaud.