Or the thwarted plutocrats of Chelsea, flushing the European Cup down Roman’s toilet along with all those billions he’s lost this year? Or Manchester City, arriving at Old Trafford on a sea of hype and petrodollars, aiming for European ports, only to be thoroughly sunk by our Iberophone men o’war?
And who to lionise most? Park, the import I once nominated here as Buy Of The Season to widespread derision, who has now brilliantly inspired us through two successive European semis? Tevez, who managed to be incisive, exciting and utterly professional despite being in the midst of a huge public rumpus with the club? Or the swoonsome Berbatov, of whom my esteemed colleague Aggers wrote thus on RedIssue’s website, after witnessing his incredible assist for the second goal: “he could pluck a passing sparrow out of the sky with either foot, and place it gently on the ground, fast asleep.”
Someone then cracked in response: “Who would be asleep, the sparrow or Dimitar?” which amusingly illuminates the fact that his supposed laziness continues to prevent the universal acclamation he should be receiving.
But let me dwell on that Tevez-supplying moment briefly. Could anyone else in the team have done that? No: not even Ronaldo. That alone is why he should be a Manchester United player: to seek to do the undo-able. That could be United’s club mission statement, after all.
Watching that Berb move, I was instantly transported back to the first time I truly noticed the player, when Spurs came to OT, and I wrote here of an almost identical air-pull he performed and which had me involuntarily leaping from my seat. I wrote then that he was dashingly Cantonesque and the rare kind of opponent you lusted after with envy – just as I used to lust when watching, and swearing at, Eric in a Leeds shirt.
Listen, he may well end up as the next Veron rather than the new Eric. Give him another season, then judge. (And remember to apportion the correct blame, if due, to the coaches).
But he’s already given me more joy this past seven months than the entire team provided me between 2004 and 2006. That’ll do me: the poster’s gone up on the office wall. His will replace Ronaldo’s, of course. The Madeiran’s embarrassing petulance and vile narcissism reached a sort of apex at the derby.
Yet I just received the first solid report from someone senior inside the Ronaldo camp, via a trusted old-time mole, that we should at least leave some room for doubt as to his presumed imminent departure.
He said: “My insider says that there’s no way whatsoever that Ronaldo will be leaving this summer. United know that they’re not getting proper cash if they sell him now, and Ronaldo is also about to sign a deal with Nike that’ll make him the highest paid footballer ever – it is doubted that they’d do that without the contract stipulating that he couldn’t play for an Adidas team.”
Blimey: we weren’t expecting any hope on this front. Mind you, it’s only one source, however well-placed, and there are still other voices preaching the opposite to him.
Still: if he stays – against all odds, one must admit – that’ll mean Fergie was uncharacteristically telling the unvarnished truth when he claimed last week that we won’t be making any big purchases this summer.
It will mean no Ribery; no cash to keep Tevez even if we wanted to; no Benzema; and that United’s only two signings this summer could well be Yaya Toure and Wigan’s Valencia. Whoop-de-****ing-doo.
Hmm: erm, senor Perez, just ‘how’ much did you say you’d give us for Ronnie again?...
* By Richard Kurt, whose Red Army Years is only available via email@example.com