Cristiano Ronaldo has been lacking two things this summer. One was the ability to walk without crutches and the other was a decent PR adviser to prevent him putting his Nike Mercurials in his gob every couple of days. And yet neither seems to have had a long-term effect.
He showed enough glimpses last night to suggest that he has put his injury behind him and is now just short of match practice. And he was welcomed back into the fold by some very friendly Manchester United fans. The former did not surprise me too much, but the latter did.
I had joked yesterday, so bad had Ronaldo’s PR been, about potential pitfalls for his comeback game but I now think he could have got away with most of them. The majority of Manchester United fans I spoke to on a one-to-one basis told me the same things about how no player was bigger than the club, how they should cash-in on their star asset while he was at his most valuable, and how they did not want players were not proud to play for United. And yet collectively this attitude seems to have been misplaced somewhere.
I did not expect him to be booed off the park, but I was shocked at just how emotional the crowd became as the Portuguese substitute made his way onto the pitch. No player bigger than the club? This was virtually a 75,000-person thank you that Ronaldo had deemed Old Trafford to be worthy of his presence. An explosion of heartfelt gratitude that the Great One had stooped to spending one more season at the club.
Maybe I was talking to the wrong United fans, or maybe they have all had a change of heart. Perhaps the defeat to Liverpool at the weekend had made them realise how much they would miss their talisman if his absence was permanent. It seems even at clubs with United’s tradition exceptions can be made.