Forget Bertie, our Rio is the real Teflon Man

ONE of the English tabloids did an amusing back page for once on Saturday, based on a picture of United players waiting for their train at Macclesfield, all hooded-up.

As Fergie lumbered into the leftside of the frame, the sub head cheekily asked: “Is that elderly man safe around all those hoodies?”

By full-time at Spurs, of course, one might have been better off inverting the question. Chief hoodie Rio, looking every inch the street gangster, is down in my notes as having a poor game: “feebly allowed Dawson a dangerous header … at fault for Berbatov’s over the bar effort,” and so forth. Come Monday’s “Sun” newspaper, Rio had become a 7/10 performer and “one of the few to produce the goods.”

Ronald Reagan or Bertie had nothing on this guy — Rio is Teflon Man.

It was ever thus: Rio has always been over-praised by reviewers, whereas Rooney is perpetually under-scored. Wayne actually saved us on Saturday when, mere seconds after being involved in a near goal move with minutes left, he was back in his own box making a superb last gasp tackle to thus prevent Spurs’ second.

Yet only two papers credited him. Indeed the build-up had been all about his alleged poor form, and Fergie was quoted as having told Wayne off for “doing too much all around the pitch.”

Well, we were glad he ignored that advice in the 85th minute, anyway. The rest of the press has been devoted to Ronaldo in the wake of his Stellar free-kick last Wednesday but, as ever this has its drawbacks. Ferguson responded grouchily when asked about Ronaldo’s ill mother Dolores wanting her boy to join Real Madrid before she dies. “He says his mother never spoke to anyone in the press — the story is total nonsense,” he red-nosedly fumed. Oops: seems Cristiano failed to confess that Spanish paper ‘AS’ not only spoke to her, she also agreed to pose for photographs and a video — while holding a mocked-up picture of her son in Real’s kit.

Looks like the “elderly man” needs to learn not to take those naughty hoodies at their word, hey? On Sunday, we then had Ronaldo red top deja vu.

The News of the World led on a supposedly imminent £60m new deal package for the boy. And why had that been planed? Turn to the Sunday Mirror: Real and Barca are ready to launch bids, with agent Jorge Mendes having already met Catalan recruiters.

The same old song as the summers of 2007 and 2006, then — but eventually, they’ll have a hit with it, I fear. Whether we would then be losing the “best since Best” (see all papers, all week) ought to be a matter for further jury consideration. Not because of his ironically — poor timed show at Spurs, but in light of his underwhelming record in Big Four matches (25 blanks in 27 games) which we sincerely hope he will start addressing when Arsenal visit in 10 days. It would be clearly absurd to label the boy a flat-track bully but, with the memory of his being outclassed by Kaka last April fresh, he really does need to stamp his imprimatur at a higher level to justify the historical comparisons.

Today, in any event, is not a moment for such fripperies, as we remember the dead of Munich, to whom no-one can truly be compared of course — though it’s only fair to say that Duncan Edwards would take some beating by any subsequent red-shirted pretender.

And as the touching extracts from his own 1957 book, published at the weekend, showed amply, he could also teach all his successors a great deal about how to behave with honour and class both on and off the field. A subject Ronaldo, sadly, needs remedial lessons in; being an all-time great is not just about goals and skill, after all.

I trust many of you, like me, will be pausing for reflection just after 3 o’clock: it is mainly a day for us United fans, no matter what may transpire at Wembley, as opposed to this coming weekend’s events, which the world will be watching and which many of us approach with some foreboding.

If City’s lower orders are intent on ruining Sunday, so be it: make sure, then, that you appreciate the chance for peaceful and communal reflection today. And then trust in the team to pay their own tribute on the pitch on Sunday — by giving a good hiding to the Blues, 50s style.

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