Whilst writing for my United-focused blog, I have come under some criticism for my rather harsh appraisals of Cristiano Ronaldo. I don’t need to get down to the ins and outs of last season and the events of the summer, but I think it will be a good thing for United when we make five times what we spent on Ronaldo next summer.
I wasn’t happy to see him kick out at Dawson when we faced Spurs a couple of weeks ago. It was unnecessary and petulant. I wasn’t happy to see him slam his foot down against Stoke a few days ago. It was unnecessary and petulant.
The fact that he is fouled more than most is not an excuse for him to react. The fact that referees often wave on fouls against him these days is not an excuse for him to dive. But let’s be honest, Ronaldo isn’t the only player to react. Considering the amount of times he is kicked in every game, and has been kicked in every game for the past five years, his reactions are usually moderate and occur irregularly.
So when Ronaldo comes up against Middlesbrough captain Emanuel Pogatetz, it’s hard to see who should be painted as the villain. It’s pantomime season and it’s clear the journalists in this country are looking for a good baddie. Pogatetz, aged just 25-years-old, has already broken one player’s leg and came close to breaking Rodrigo Possebon’s just three months ago. That sounds like criteria enough. Let’s be honest, Ronaldo’s swan impression won’t end anyone’s career, but Pogatetz seems to be trying to rack career-ending tackles up like notches on his bedpost. But it appears as though ol winker is so hated that even when he is strangled, the press will find what they can to knock him.
It is amusing that a newspaper of this name, The Independent, would give such a ridiculously biased account of the incident, but here it is.
There are more immediate concerns for now [for Manchester United], like the temperament of the man who led them, single handed at times, to the double last spring. The latest outpouring of indignation from Cristiano Ronaldo was as fabricated as many of his others — an apparent arm around his neck from Emmanuel Pogatetz in the Middlesbrough box as the first half wound to a close. There was little in it, no elbows certainly, but after seeking out referee Martin Atkinson and waving an arm in his face, Ronaldo found the Middlesbrough skipper — remembered here for the ugly challenge on Rodrigo Possebon which saw the Austrian sent off in September’s Carling Cup clash — and their head-to-head argument continued down the tunnel.
It hardly supported Ferguson’s call, in his programme notes, for an end to the “rift” that has somehow developed between the two clubs.
I can only assume Ian Herbert was in the ground and has yet to see a replay of the incident. From my seat, I saw Ronaldo fall to the floor and didn’t see both of Pogatetz’s hands around Ronaldo’s neck, and I also didn’t see any elbows. Yet it was only moments after I left Old Trafford, with my mobile phone signal returning, that the texts came flooding in. “Did you see what that thug did to Ronaldo?” and the like.
Herbert quite frankly should be ashamed of himself. To claim that Ronaldo fabricated outrage at being strangled is moronic, to say the least. Maybe I should throttle Herbert and see how fabricated his reaction is? Had any other player been strangled, as Ronaldo was, there would be outrage, and directed at the right player, the one who was actually guilty of an offence, the strangler.
The Guardian‘s response isn’t much better, with Paul Wilson also directing the criticism at United’s winger, rather than the player guilty of the crime.
Yet he [Ronaldo] did not miss the chance to act as referee when he felt Emanuel Pogatetz should have been penalised for grabbing him around the neck in the penalty area. Dissatisfied by Martin Atkinson’s non-response Ronaldo took up the matter personally with the Boro captain as the teams left the field at half-time, leading to a mini-fracas in the tunnel. Ferguson unsurprisingly defended his player, or at least refused to criticise him, but as with the self-substitution he performed a few weeks ago, the manager must long for the days when his star player concentrated on his game rather than his personal grievances.
Had Ronaldo run off the pitch and strangled Pogatetz in response, then I’d understand then they were arguably as bad as each other, but that’s not what happens. Ronaldo chases Pogatetz and pushes him in the arm, before saying his piece.
Pogatetz’s response? To argue back and push his forehead in to Ronaldo’s.
If during a game a referee saw Ronaldo push his opponent in the arm and have a go, the referee would likely go over and have a word. “No more of that, laddie.” It’s hardly a massive offence. On the other hand, wrapping both your hands around someone’s neck is a massive offence. Why is Wilson more concerned about the actions of Ronaldo than Pogatetz then?
His bias, if not glaringly obvious already at this point, is exposed with his closing sentence. He claims ‘unsurprisingly’ (rolls eyes) Ferguson defended Ronaldo. No wait, he didn’t defend Ronaldo, he just didn’t condemn him. What did Ferguson say?
“It seemed as though Pogatetz grabbed him around the neck,” he said. “That happens in penalty boxes all the time. We’ve had referees coming to meet the players a couple of years ago and they said it would be stamped out with one warning and then a red card. But nothing ever happens.”
What does Wilson want Ferguson to say? It seemed as though Pogatetz grabbed Ronaldo around the neck, but Ronaldo should not have responded by pushing Pogatetz in the arm! Christ. It’s not as if he was asked about Ronaldo pushing Pogatetz and then claimed Ronaldo was fully entitled to do so (which I believe he was!), rather he just didn’t mention Ronaldo’s reaction. Wilson focuses on this non-event though, as a means to really stick the knife in.
In contrast, what does Southgate have to say about his player strangling someone in the box? “When teams are defending from corners, there will be contact.” Since when has throttling been ‘contact’?
Surely a more obvious analysis of the managers would be to point out that ‘unsurprisingly’ Southgate defended his player who was in the wrong, whilst Ferguson gave an accurate observation of events, his player did have two hands on his neck, but that clashes in the area happen all the time.
I don’t dislike Ronaldo as much as those yobs at Stoke, but I’m certainly not a fan of his. Yet I cannot abide by this one-sided reporting. No wonder top players and managers shun this league, knowing what a rough ride they will receive from the press. The press also whips the fans in to a frenzy, getting them all exited and more willing to boo. The more riled the fans, the more riled the players, as we saw with Andy Wilkinson last week, responding to tribal chanting and jeering in Ronaldo’s direction, taking a swipe at our winger, costing him a red card and his team a point.
Ronaldo will leave this league, sooner rather than later, and the press can pat themselves on the back for playing some part, however minor, in ensuring the best player in Europe (officially) leaves England. Nice work, journos!