United’s Number Seven

The three musketeers: but can Ronaldo topple Beckham and Best?

The three musketeers: but can Ronaldo topple Beckham and Best?

Mauraone Fellaini unveiled a new haircut during Everton’s match against Stoke this weekend, and after the midfielder’s form had dipped of late, it seemed to give him a new lease of life, and indeed he played more like the lithe and agile Steven Pienaar who’s styling he now shares than the awkward lanky ‘fella we’d been seeing in recent weeks – he didn’t even get booked! That got me thinking about another player who has visited the barber lately, and how we might compare him to his predecessor.

I’m sure many of the female followers of the game will have noticed Cristiano Ronaldo’s questionable new hairstyle, that bears a striking resemblance to a mohawk without quite mustering the courage to go the whole hog. However, whether or not you approve of Ronaldo’s hairstyle is really rather irrelevant – for some reason I picked it up as a lead in to a comparison to the previous occupant of Manchester United’s number seven jersey, David Beckham, who of course was another ‘pretty boy’ who perhaps paid rather too much attention to his hair.

You may think that that is a pretty shallow comparison, I mean yeah they have the same shirt number and a similar hair style, but in fact the comparison’s go much deeper than that. They both hit pretty mean free kicks for example, and at times for United both have shown the ability to win a match almost on their own. At one time or another too, both players have shown a certain problem with their temperament, and as such have each caused a bit of a stir at a world cup, incidents involving Messrs Simeone and Rooney landing each in a spot of bother with English crowds especially.

David Beckham of course eventually vacated the number seven jersey at United in favour of the number twenty-three at Real Madrid, and it is here where the comparisons between the two players start to get a touch more worrying for fans of Manchester United. Because of course, Ronaldo is perennially linked with a move to Spain’s most flamboyant club, and despite constant assurances that he’s happy in Manchester, I’m sure most United fans secretly dread that their new ‘main man’ will one day jump ship, as did Beckham before him.

Both players were exposed to top flight football and the subsequent stardom at a young age, and though Ronaldo had a successful stint at Portugese club Sporting Lisbon before his move to United, it was in Manchester that he really burst onto the world scene, as Beckham did with his famous goal that Neil Sullivan will probably never live down. Beckham stuck with United until he was 28 and arguably in his prime, but Ronaldo is still only 24, and United would be devastated indeed to lose the player who has progressed so much in short a time under their careful guidance before he hits his peak.

I must admit, I think that sooner or later, Ronaldo will end up playing for Real Madrid. This is not simply because of the constant speculation about a move, but because of the few things the player himself has said about the possibility. He has been known to express a desire to play in Madrid’s white and certainly, he is the type of guy who will usually get what he wants – an attribute that shows itself negatively in his game when he hurls himself to the floor to con the referee out of a free kick.

But the thing is, has Ronaldo already reached his peak? Voted the World Player of the Year and picking up almost every accolade going in the English game last year, he had an incredible season. This year though, he has struggled to recapture that sort of form, and while he is still a very good player, he is not the player he was last term. And in that sense, would it be such a shame if United were to lose him to Madrid? I have to say, I don’t think it would.

For one thing, they’d certainly get a lot of money for him. Whatever the eventual transfer fee, should a move take place, it’ll be big, you can count on that. But also, Ronaldo, for all his individual brilliance, is very often a touch to selfish on the pitch, and at times seems to be a negative influence on the team as a whole; you only have to see his reaction when a team mate declines to pass to him in space to see that he has rather a high opinion of his worth to the team.

But also, as I mentioned above, I think that Ronaldo’s incredible season last year is probably an anomaly. I’m not saying he won’t produce the odd performance reminiscent of that, but to be so good so consistently was an incredible achiivment, and one I don’t think will be repeated. We have seen other players in recent years have an outstanding period in their career, before simply dropping off a little, Ronaldinho being the perfect example, and it suggests I think, that one simply cannot maintain that sort of performance consistently for a long period of time.

Then there is also the question of whether Ronaldo can actually perform to his best at the highest level, and here we see another link with Beckham. For years many have questioned Beckham’s performances in an England shirt and despite his obvious passion and commitment and that incredible performance against Greece (who can forget?), it is probably fair to say that he never performed consistently at his best for his country.

So far Ronaldo too, has struggled to make an impact when it really mattered. He hasn’t managed to inspire Portugal as he did United last season, and apart from fleeting glimpses, I don’t think the international arena has seen the best of Ronaldo. The same accusation can also be levelled at him at club level, when he consistently seems to go missing in the big, high pressure matches. In United’s Champions League Final triumph last season over Chelsea, the winger was conspicuous largely by his absence, and indeed against Liverpool at the weekend he didn’t have any influence on the game.

Of course, he is still young, and the very fact that I’m writing this article about him shows just how much pressure and scrutiny he is under. But what United fans will perhaps be asking themselves is whether their new number seven can really surpass their old one. Yes, he has already picked up far more personal accolades than Beckham, but I don’t think he has surpassed him in terms of playing level yet. One season does not a great player make after all, and though he is a very good one, and has much promise still, Ronaldo still has much to prove.

The question is, will he prove it with United, or will he finally jump ship to Madrid? Will he fulfill his potential at all? I thought Beckham made a bad move by moving to Madrid in his prime, and I think he would have developed more at Manchester United than he did in Spain. Whether the same could be said of Ronaldo only time will tell. I do believe he will leave United, and perhaps it will be for the better. What is certain though is that Ronaldo and Beckham share a number of similarities, and it will be interesting indeed to see whether the latest model can emulate, or even better the achievements of the previous version.

Of course, beyond Beckham does not lie the summit in terms of United’s number seven, as George Best, another fellow with a taste for glamour, hair cuts and controversy is just waiting in the wings for more comparisons. One thing is for sure, Ronaldo has a lot to aspire to. I am under no illusion that the man himself has every confidence in his ability and his potential, but I must admit, I think he will stay forever in the same bracket as Beckham, rather than surpassing him and becoming truly a great player.



2 Responses to United’s Number Seven

  1. mattjeff says:

    I feel sorry for any player who scores in 2 games and is consider to have had no impact on these games i.e. as stated the Chelsea and Liverpool game. Also the article states one season does not make a good player well how about 2, 06/07 and 07/08?

  2. Adam says:

    Fair points both, however in my opinion goals aren’t everything. He scored a good header in the Champions League final but from that position you would expect any player to score. Scholes and Brown did some neat work on the touchline and yes, Ronaldo did well to be in the right place at the right time.

    However, for the rest of the match he was not his usual driven and unplayable self, and so I think it’s OK to say that he didn’t have as full an impact on the game as some would have expected, given his form.

    On Saturday he scored a penalty against Liverpool. From 12 yards you would be disappointed if he didn’t score, he didn’t win the penalty and nor did he play much part in the rest of the game as United capitulated to a humiliating defeat. Again, I don’t think he was at his best, but you’re free to disagree.

    As for “the article states one season does not make a good player”, that isn’t true. The article actually says “One season does not a great player make” and I think the word “great” makes all the difference. Ronaldo HAS had a number of good, even very good seasons. Last season though, he was great. His form was outstanding and if he was to be judged on that season alone he would perhaps be considered up there with greats like Pele and Maradonna.

    However, he has not been able to repeat the trick yet, and so I was merely suggesting that he cannot be considered one of the games greats after only one great season. He needs to do more, and he may well do more. Personally I don’t think he will, but I have been wrong many times before.

    Thanks for your comments, I hope I’ve cleared up what i meant in the article, but of course if you still disagree that’s great. Football is all opinion after all 🙂

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