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On Ronaldo’s Fergal Treatment

Since it’s already been reported by every conceivable media outlet, I suppose most readers would already be familiar with this bit of news.

The long and short of it is this: Ferguson made comments in the media about Ronaldo’s general behaviour this season and, for a change, actually said something without being cloyingly appreciative of him. Here’s the meat of what he’s had to say on Ronaldo, that I’ll quote for those who haven’t read this before:

“I don’t accept that he will give goals away because of the player he is. I speak to him about it. I don’t accept that from anyone. In European football, if you give the ball away it takes a long time to get it back.

“He always feels he’s not getting the proper protection from referees and I think that, maybe, in quite a few cases he is right, and a few cases he is not right. It’s hard when a player who wants to entertain doesn’t get everything his own way. But you can’t get everything your own way. He understands that and there’s not a problem with that. It’s just a frustration that he feels he doesn’t get the decision and he gets upset about it.

“I think, obviously, he doesn’t enjoy that and he knows he’s letting himself down more than anything. He holds his hands up. I have had to remind him about that but I’m not getting into what has been said.”

It is a rare public occasion where Ferguson has admitted that he’s actually said stuff to Ronaldo other than, ‘You are the best player in the world and the world is out to get you. Don’t worry son, it’s just an alien conspiracy and it will pass.’ That, papers have proclaimed it’s a bust up between Fergie and Ronaldo and, that Ronaldo being benched against Sunderland was a punishment of some sort is just hyperbole and wishful thinking, respectively.

There are two things to note here. First, Ferguson has in fact made one more remark on Ronaldo that could be construed as, let us say, mildly negative when, in the CNN interview, he admitted that the Real Madrid distractions did affect him on the pitch, a bit.

Now to the most discerning of the United faithful, the above statements are like the Pope saying, the fact that man has now seen the earth from outer space could mean the earth may have been round since the beginning of time, or me saying the fact that Phil Collins writes bad music could mean he may be a shite artist. Nonetheless, it is something Ferguson has said in public, whether it is stating the blind obvious or not. So, in the least, it could translate to him not being very pleased with the way things have transpired since last summer.

Secondly, Ferguson saying what he has said in the media does not make the ‘bust up’ (if you can call it that) a very recent event. If both United fans and journalists alike can spot a bit of tiredness, slackness or a more than usual whingeing, there is a good chance that a manager like Ferguson, during the course of the season, would have stopped for a moment and gone, ‘hey, hold on. Now, that doesn’t look right…’. While there may have been a lot of critics questioning Ferguson’s lack of tactical nous, the one aspect of his management that tends to always stand the test of time and personnel, is his man management skills. So, to antagonise an important player at this crucial point of our season is not something he’d do.

What might have happened, if I may speculate, is Ferguson sitting down and having an adult discussion with Ronaldo. No flying hair dryers like the media would love to cream themselves about.

The papers have been quick to link these quotes with Ferguson benching Ronaldo for Sunderland because of this alleged ‘bust up’. It’s not too different from Mark Lawrensen’s (in)famous remarks, a few days ago, on how ‘everyone knew there was a bust up between Fergie and Rooney’. So I would not waste too much of my time with all this. I’ll just point to an important game in mid week that would need our star winger to be at his freshest best in a squad bulging with jaded players. If he’s benched for Porto, though, then it’s worth debating whether Fergie’s bust up with Ronaldo is indeed true.

Till then, let us be relieved that Fergie does recognise Ronaldo is capable of much more than he’s shown so far this season.