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Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Man Utd: What CR7 lovers and haters will say and why neither scores

My Kolkata analyses the fallout from an explosive interview given by Ronaldo to Piers Morgan

Priyam Marik | Published 14.11.22, 02:54 PM
Cristiano Ronaldo has reached breaking point at Manchester United, as evident from his comments to Piers Morgan in his latest interview

Cristiano Ronaldo has reached breaking point at Manchester United, as evident from his comments to Piers Morgan in his latest interview

Manchester United

When Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United in the summer of 2009 for Real Madrid, he did so as the world’s best and most expensive player, a supreme athlete about to enter his peak and a living legend at Old Trafford, all at just 24. 

More than 13 years later, as Ronaldo stands on the verge of leaving English football’s most successful side once again, he will do so either as a 37-year-old prima donna whose footballing output can no longer match his ego or as a GOAT who deeply loves United but can no longer be a part of its unchanging mess. 

Why the dilemma the second time around? Because it concerns Ronaldo, a man who, in the last decade or so, has grown accustomed to polarising the world, especially social media, more than Donald Trump, EDM and pineapple on pizza.

On Sunday night, excerpts from a recent interview given by Ronaldo to his friend and journalist Piers Morgan (for the latter’s show Piers Morgan Uncensored) went viral on social media. The England men’s cricket team who had been world champions for less than 12 hours were swiftly relegated from the headlines as well as from Twitter’s trending hashtags. Ronaldo was the cynosure once more, having told Morgan that he feels ‘betrayed’ by United, does not have ‘respect’ for manager Erik ten Hag because “he doesn’t show respect for me”, feels Wayne Rooney criticises him since “he (Rooney) finished his career and I’m still playing at a high level…I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true…” and more among a series of bombshells that has landed right in time for club football’s month-long hiatus ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

As the football ecosystem processes why Ronaldo said what he did, My Kolkata looks at how Ronaldo lovers and Ronaldo haters will react to the sensational interview (we have taken the liberty to ventriloquise their words and tone, leaving aside the decorative expletives), and which camp is closer to the truth.

Five things CR7 lovers will say

  • The reasonable Ronaldo lover: All credit to Ronaldo for saying what nobody else has the guts to say. Man United are finished and Ronaldo doesn’t belong there anymore. The club are still hung over on the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson and are ill-equipped to compete with cohesive footballing machines like Manchester City and Liverpool. Somebody had to call out the deep-seated rot at United and only Ronaldo, a true Red Devil, was capable of doing that.
  • The slightly less reasonable Ronaldo lover: How can Ronaldo be the problem when he was the team’s topscorer by a country mile last season? The numbers don’t lie. If this season’s stats show that United are better without Ronaldo, it’s because the stats are skewed. Maybe the numbers lie sometimes. Who cares about xG (expected goals) and most completed presses per match anyway!
  • The Ronaldo lover who hates Lionel Messi more than he/she loves Ronaldo: Messi could never give a 90-minute interview in English, let alone one that was actually compelling from start to finish. Messi could never be bold enough to say what was true on air. He’d rather send fishy text messages to friends in high places and hope they never leak.
  • The Ronaldo lover who does not care: It hardly matters what Ronaldo said or what United feel. Ronaldo was, is and will be the greatest footballer of all time. Onto bigger things in Qatar now…Siuuuuu!
  • The Ronaldo lover who is immune to reason: The God of Madeira has spoken. That’s that. No more debate necessary. Of course, Ronaldo is right. Why? Because Ronaldo has five Ballons d’Or, five Champions Leagues, a European Championship, the most followers on Instagram, the same amount of abs and luxury cars…you get the point.

Five things CR7 haters will say

  • The Ronaldo hater who is a lifelong United supporter: Buying Ronaldo in the summer of 2021 was a marketing gimmick that has now unravelled as a footballing disaster. Ronaldo was always going to reduce the team to a one-man show, making it impossible to build a fierce attacking unit that can challenge for glory. United, as evident this season, are better without Ronaldo on the pitch. It’s time they become even better without him at the club.
  • The Ronaldo hater who read the tea leaves: Remember when Ronaldo said that “people are jealous of me because I’m smart, handsome and rich” or the numerous occasions when he sulked and sighed whenever his teammates got on the scoresheet before him? This is a guy who’s so used to being in the limelight that he will say or do anything to stay there. No wonder he pushed his club, peers, manager and former colleagues under the bus. He was so desperate to get 90 minutes under his belt that he went to Piers Morgan!
  • The Ronaldo hater who is relieved: At long last, the world sees Ronaldo for the egomaniac that he is. Surely there’s no salvaging his image from this. I can finally tell my school friends why building their personalities by copying Ronaldo was the worst decision of their lives.
  • The Messi lover who hates Ronaldo more than he/she loves Messi: When Messi left Barcelona, he wanted to be remembered as a humble and nice guy. Ronaldo has chosen to leave United by being petty and vindictive. There’s only ever been one GOAT and he doesn’t speak English.
  • The Ronaldo hater who is sad: This should feel like a dream come true. Ronaldo embarrassing himself and his club in front of billions. But why do I suddenly feel bad for someone who I have loathed my entire life? Is it because Ronaldo is actually not as clever and cunning as I thought?

The neutral view: What is (probably) on target

Manchester United have struggled to decide if Ronaldo has become more of a liability than an asset for the club

Manchester United have struggled to decide if Ronaldo has become more of a liability than an asset for the club

Manchester United

As with any situation that parts the waters of public opinion like Moses on steroids, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Not even the most ardent Ronaldo fanboy will deny that the biggest lover of Ronaldo is Ronaldo himself. In the twilight of his career, the Portuguese talisman has not handled his physical decline with grace. Tactics and circumstances have conspired to make him unnecessary at United and undesirable elsewhere. Left in limbo with his outsized halo for company, Ronaldo, for the first time in his life, has begun to doubt himself, as is natural for elite sportspersons well beyond their prime. At the same time, Ronaldo has received little help from ten Hag, who has been bold enough to stand up to United’s number seven without going the distance of rejecting him altogether. 

United, aware of Ronaldo’s dwindling numbers on the field as well as his unfading commercial appeal off it, have vacillated on what to do with their most prized asset-turned-liability. 

There is also no taking away from the fact that losing a child earlier this year has affected Ronaldo. Beneath his imperturbable exterior beats the heart of a father still dealing with a profound personal tragedy. The onto-the-next-thing cycle of sports has barely stopped to notice, never mind wondering, how Ronaldo is coping. All this adds up to a perfect storm, which has now been unleashed upon football at large. 

As a January exit from Manchester seems inevitable for Ronaldo (nobody has any clue where to, though), it is unfortunate that his legacy as a Red Devil stands tarnished. As a lover of football, one can only hope that Ronaldo leaves the game in more dignified circumstances than he will leave the club that made him a superstar. This, after all, is no way to rage against the dying light.

Last updated on 14.11.22, 02:54 PM

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