Father Time has caught up on Cristiano Ronaldo just months after he was the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’ for Manchester United.
Do Ron, Ron, Ron
It’s okay to change your mind. We often change our minds. But what we do is acknowledge that we did once have a different opinion and have since changed our minds, because we are adults.
So when Neil Custis writes in The Sun that ‘the truth that is now staring everyone in the face, and clearly Ronaldo himself, is that his days as a top-class footballer are over’, you wonder when Custis came to this conclusion.
It certainly wasn’t when Ronaldo was signed and he wrote that ‘CRISTIANO RONALDO is the last piece in the jigsaw. Now the pressure is on boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to win that Premier League title.’
Then we were told that Old Gunnar Solskjaer was ‘preparing to put out probably the best Manchester United team in over a decade against Newcastle’. As this was a decade in which Manchester United had won the Premier League title, that was quite some claim. It was also absolute bollocks.
After the Newcastle game came the revelations about Cristiano Ronaldo’s Churchillian (of course) speech and all was right in the world because this was Ronaldo and Manchester United could now win the title.
By December the title hopes were long gone and so was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but here was Ralf Rangnick and his plan for Ronaldo:
‘WELL he was supposed to be the man who would not fit in to Ralf’s pressing style but the German coach was never going to ignore what one of football’s greatest ever players could still offer the team at 36-year’s old.’
That is one hell of a special way to approach the admittedly tricky hyphen/apostrophe conundrum presented by the English language, but beyond that sh*t-show, Custis was clear that Ronaldo was central to any Manchester United revival.
Then in January Custis reacted to Ronaldo’s criticism of young players with this (presenting another compelling argument for new subs at The Sun):
‘THIS time the Interview would not be canned. This time the no-holds-barred opinions of the most important player at the club would heard.’
The ‘most important player at the club’? Literally a month later, ‘it has been an admirable battle against father time but he is now losing it’.
But isn’t this the best Manchester United starting XI in over a decade, Neil? And was it not ‘ridiculous’ to sub off the great Ronaldo less than five months ago?
Don’t Ron, Ron, Ron
He’s not the only one of course.
Chris Wheeler, Daily Mail, August 2021, on ‘a spectacular deal for United’:
‘The Americans had already spent £116m on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane this summer, and acquiring Ronaldo for an additional £19.8m makes this a United team to be reckoned with.
‘How will they fit him into a forward line that features Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Fernandes, Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood?
‘Who cares, he is Cristiano Ronaldo. That is Solskjaer’s job now and the United manager knows he has the tools at his disposal to launch a serious assault on the Premier League and Europe.’
Chris Wheeler, Daily Mail, February 2022. And by now ‘the motivation for bringing him back in the first place was to avoid the unthinkable prospect of him joining Manchester City’:
‘Cavani celebrates his 35th birthday on Monday and it is a damning indictment of United’s forward planning that their two strikers have a combined age of 72.
‘The Uruguayan cannot stay fit and Ronaldo’s powers are clearly waning after turning 37 earlier this month.
‘Cavani is on his way, and with Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood facing uncertain futures at Old Trafford, can United saddle themselves with the challenge of having to replace up to four attackers this summer?’
So from ‘how are they going to find room for this ‘spectacular’ signing’ to ‘how have Manchester United left themselves with only Ronaldo?’ in the space of less than six months?
Life comes at you fast.
Over in the Manchester Evening News, the Ronaldo theme continues. But they think they might have come up with an ingenious solution:
‘With Edinson Cavani potentially on his way out in the summer and Ronaldo struggling for form, United may need to add a striker to their growing list of positions in desperate need of reinforcements.’
Was the clue when Ralf Rangnick was asked about needing a new striker last week and he said: “This is obvious. Edinson’s contract is running out in the summer and the club needs the best possible centre-forward. I think everyone is aware of that.”
Everyone is aware of that now.
Price of admission
Also in the MEN:
‘Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick makes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admission over sacking’
And what is this admission? That it was his idea? Not exactly…
‘Manchester United were so worried about qualifying for the Champions League they sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Ralf Rangnick.’
And there we were thinking that United had sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because they didn’t like his hair.
So when United sacked Solskjaer because Manchester United were six points off a Champions League place, it was because Manchester United were six points off a Champions League place?
How did they get that out of Rangnick? Thumb screws?
Samuel Luckhurst continues:
‘United have dropped 11 points from their last 24 and fallen to sixth in the Premier League, with West Ham still fourth while eighth-placed Tottenham and sixth-placed Arsenal each have two games in hand. Wolves have also entered the running and are now seventh following an impressive 2-0 win at Spurs.’
Alternatively, United are somehow still fifth, one point behind West Ham, and have a game in hand on the Hammers.
‘Liverpool’s newfound positive backs up Pep Guardiola’s title concern’ intrigued us on the Mirror website. So what is this ‘newfound positive’? It was a pretty familiar team that beat Burnley 1-0 on Sunday in a largely unremarkable game.
‘Liverpool avoided a potential banana slip away at Burnley on Sunday afternoon thanks to a Fabinho goal five minutes before half-time to hand the Reds all three points.
‘The win was made all the more impressive when factoring in the number of players that Liverpool lined-up without against the Clarets.’
Sorry, what? They literally have zero injuries. The team they played against Burnley – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane – is pretty damned close to being their first-choice side.
The writer then details that Diogo Jota was rested, Thiago was on the bench (as he often is) and Ibrahima Konate joined him there (as he often does).
‘In their place was Salah, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip respectively – all three just as efficient and technically gifted, which is the exact reason Manchester City can not consider this title race run just yet.’
So the ‘newfound positive’ is that Liverpool have a strong squad? Somebody should really have spotted that when they had almost the exact same squad when the season began.