stunning goals against Porto and Arsenal energised the run to that year’s European Cup final.
I remember a midweek game at the Hawthorns in February of that final season. United ran out 5-0 winners and Ronaldo bagged two, yet there was an underlying current of seething resentment between player and fans. When his first goal came after a flurry of missed opportunities, the forward glared at the away end, chest puffed out, with the sneering arrogance and self-regard of a man you quietly suspected had very easy access to regular sexual intercourse. The posture seemed to indicate, in so many words, that Ronaldo didn’t give a flying fuck about us, or what we thought of him and his performances. He’d never been the most popular player at the club. Sure, kids and whoppers lapped him up like sweet milk, but the petulance, the preening, and the very blatantly self-centred lust for goals, awards and attention irked and frustrated many. Much like the end of the Van Nistelrooy era, the player was still scoring bucket-loads, but the team’s fluency was evaporating. Ronaldo’s parting performance came in Rome, where the team’s victory strategy was based almost solely
WE do not remember days, we remember moments. Not my words – nor, indeed, the words of Shakin’ Stevens – but the words of a man fabled as one of the great Italian writers of the 20th century, Cesare Pavese. A staunch member of the anti-fascist movement during Mussolini’s dictatorship and a notable member of the PCI – Italian Communist Party – after the war, Pavese wrote in his diaries, The Business of Living, that “the richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten”. Heaven only knows what Cesare thought of football, though rumours persist that his obsession with Allenby Chilton raised eyebrows among Turin’s intellectual cognoscenti during the late 1940s. But Pavese’s ruminations on the peculiar nature of memory is pertinent in relation to football. As time ebbs away, so does much of the detail that goes into constituting a match. In 20 years, few will remember Rooney’s wretched clutch of first touches during the Manchester derby of February 2011. Everyone will recall his marvellous overhead that won the game. So it goes. When Cristiano Ronaldo made for Madrid in the summer of 2009, I remember very few tears of anguish from Reds. For much of the previous season, United had grimaced their way towards a third consecutive title. We finished with a fairly conservative tally of 68 league goals, despite a glut of attacking options that included Rooney, Tévez, Berbatov, and Ronaldo himself. The title was won largely due to the efforts of Edwin van der Sar and a frequently makeshift defence that often included a young and inexperienced Jonny Evans. In conceding just 33 goals in all competitions, United turned in their most parsimonious campaign since 1981-82. There seemed little love lost between the Portuguese and much of our match-going fan base by that point, too. The relationship was strained and fatigued, at least until
The petulance, the preening and the self-centred lust for attention irked and frustrated many love lost between the Portuguese and around his pace and around his pace and strength as the spearhead of the attack. He delivered a wild display characterised by hopeless shots from distance and ill discipline, repeatedly showing little interest in passing to teammates. Listening to United fans in recent strength as the spearhead of the attack. He delivered a wild display characterised by hopeless shots from distance and ill discipline, repeatedly showing little interest in passing to teammates. Listening to United fans in recent months, you’d be forgiven for thinking none of this ever happened, and that the lad’s time in Manchester was some sort of hippy love-in; so dreamy in its preposterous harmony and goodwill that it made Woodstock look like the Strangeways riot. At little less than a goal a game, Ronaldo’s record at Real Madrid is magnificent, and, after scoring in four of the last five clasicos, the idea that he fails to turn up on the big stage has been comprehensively dismissed. That he was a superb player was never in doubt, nor that United’s path to the league title each year would be more straightforward were he still on board. But to say we’d love him back at United is embarrassing. He was visibly sick of playing for the club, and the tone of his performances, if not his productivity, were frequently dismaying towards the end of his period here. One player was even alleged to have been heard saying “he thinks it’s all about him” in the lead-up to the final in Rome, hinting that even the atmosphere in the dressing room may have been corroding. Nevertheless, all it seems to have taken is a few nice words about the club and Ferguson in the press, an embarrassing transfer request from Rooney, and suddenly his failings are forgotten. Ronaldo was a fine player for a short period, and his contribution should not and will not be forgotten. Remember Fulham away, remember the free-kick against Pompey, remember the trophies and the glory, yes. But don’t forget the lax efforts to get back onside in the Munich anniversary derby defeat, the gesticulating at teammates, the selfishness and pomposity. Many were nonplussed to see Ronaldo leave, and contemporary struggles and the threat from across the city should not erase the memory.
Joe Ganley remembering ronaldo
014 united we stand 217 IF you’re a reader of certain kind of newspaper (the quality kind) or a certain kind of magazine (the kind where it’s tricky to root out an actual article among all the adverts for high-end watches), you can’t fail to have noticed that Mad Men made its return to the screen last month. Sky Atlantic – having outbid previous landlord, BBC4, for the right to broadcast the show – gave it a characteristically low-key sell, procuring about half of the billboards I drive past on my way to work, a route I would say is more Don Brennan than it is Don Draper, as well as a ton of newspaper ad space (I’ll say this for Murdoch, his advertising spend underwrites about half the British media).
into weekly portions, themselves given the added irritation of adverts (those cool, retro ones had disappeared by the second week). And this, in turn, got me thinking about something else.
Imagine if we consumed football like we did shows such as Mad Men or the West Wing. Not game by game, collectively, but box set of a season at a time, each of us at different points in the narrative arc.
Come the night of broadcast and classy touches abounded. The Blackberry ident at the start of the show had been given some a slick, pencil-drawn makeover in the style of the show’s credits sequence, and the advertising belonged entirely to retro ads of years gone by. A move even the fiercest of Murdoch haters can’t fail to agree was pretty cool. What’s more, the show was going out a mere 48 hours after it had screened in the States, reducing the need to hit up the internet for dodgy torrents and zip-files.
Given its cultural ubiquity in the weeks leading up to broadcast, you’d expect that all the Sky execs had to do was lie back and watch the ratings roll in for what was sure to be a national coming-together round the telly of the type not seen since the coronation of Simon Cowell’s latest batch of nonentities. Offices and playgrounds would be abuzz with feverish discussion of how well Joan was looking and how natty Pete Campbell’s check-blazer was. Only it didn’t quite pan out like that, with the initial ratings revealing that a mere 98,000 tuned in for the first show.
Maybe where Murdoch went wrong is in ignoring the fact that Mad Men is just one of those shows that is best serviced by the box-set, a treat to be devoured over the course of a few days or a couple of weeks, rather than sliced the fact that Mad Men is just one of go
Imagine the entire media signedup to a no-spoilers pact, the radiophone-ins hushed, the back-pages muffled. Think of the whispered conversations with mates and colleagues to avoid spoiling it for the lad who hasn’t got to the end
Mad Men is just one of those shows that is best serviced by the box-set of the 99 series yet. (He came in one day last week, raving about the game in Turin, and begged you to tell him how the series finished. You just said: “You wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you. Just watch it tonight.” The look of disbelief he wore next of the 99 series yet. (He came in one day last week, raving about the game in Turin, and begged you to tell him how the series finished. You just said: “You wouldn’t believe me if I did tell you. Just watch it tonight.” The look of disbelief he wore next morning stuck with him for about a week, until he piled into the next season and there was all that palaver about the FA Cup.)
Then there was that season with the horrible sub-plot about horses that culminated, through some convoluted bit of plot chicanery that aficionados argue about to this day, with those weird new characters from America being shipped in, the ones who rarely appear in the series in person but whose control pervades the whole thing. Indeed, quite a few hardcore viewers found them so unappealing they stopped watching altogether.
And what would they say about this season when they got to it? Intriguing bunch of new characters, though conspicuously none of the really big names that had been rumoured to be joining the cast. Not that we needed them, judging by the explosive start the new kids made. The writers of the show are always getting grief for rehashing old plots, but retooling that infamous 5-1 from 1989 as 6-1 was like burning the Rovers down all over again, just with more cast members trapped inside this time, as well as that cat that used to nap through the opening credits. Creative bankruptcy might also be the accusation when they brought that Paul Scholes character back – love him and everything, but it’s hardly an auspicious sign for the future, particularly when new characters like that Ravel (a sure-fire scenestealer, word had it) were written out after hardly had a single line. That said, Scholesy made a big difference, steadying the series like he was still absolutely born to it.
They probably found some of the individual episodes a bit stale, a bit short on those pacy action sequences it used to be famous for. But, one thing it still hasn’t lost, that mastery of the ending. Those final frantic few minutes when an episode – like Norwich or Blackburn – that seems to be heading towards frustrating anti-climax, suddenly explodes into miraculous mayhem. Not a vintage box set as they go, but a richly satisfying one all the same. (Though at time of writing, no one’s exactly sure which of the two endings said to have been shot they’ll be broadcasting). Shall we do Friday Night Lights next?
Ian Bland united we stand 217