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What a winker..

fans viewsPaul's new article marvels at the man of the moment, Old Trafford's new magician - Cristiano Ronaldo.

 So, the time of festivity and turkey has passed, the time of ersatz affection and drunken work-party gropings gone for another year, another period of rabid consumerism and faux religiosity zipped by in the blinking of an eye. The drinks cabinet is now empty and the house, shorn of the baubles and tinsel that festooned each nook and cranny, now seems bare and sterile, mirroring the effect of awaking next to the stunner you pulled the night before only to see that, sans make-up, she looks like a foot. All that remains now is the snow-filled, icy, treacherous depression of January, with the return to work/uni leading into the narrow warrens of the winter darkness; as you might have noticed, this Seasonal Affective Disorder has even got to me, and I like winter. For me, I shook out the last vestiges of port and chocolate cold turkey (not with cold turkey) in early January trembling over essays and exams, which are now thankfully finished, for now at least.

It was also a period of hectic football, with games falling on top of one another with the frequency of the wobbly, Guinness-soaked old uncles at an Irish wake. United, statistically, did better than any of our rivals over the holiday period, with Arsenal having some wobbly moments up north whilst we inexplicably threw away three points at West Ham, a team who seem to make an irritating habit of holding us back recently. When they beat us at Upton Park last year, one of my United supporting mates said he didn't mind the result as he "didn't really mind West Ham". He exited my house with a chair smashing the roof just above his head.

 One of the bright spots of this season, never mind the festive season, was one Cristiano Ronaldo, our swaggering number seven who is now our, and everyone's, top scorer. Put simply, he is awesome. For me, you can keep Kaka and Messi, in terms of influence, talent and sheer effectiveness, I'd rather have this boy any day of the week.

In fact, looking around this team at the moment, it is hard to remember a time when you could look at a core of maybe 16 to 18 players at Manchester United that are indubitably top class. Without meaning to cause offence to any of the following, at times we have had Quinton Fortune, Djemba x2, Kieran Richardson, David Bellion, bar of few performances Darren Fletcher and even Alan Smith who, whilst not awful players were not a consistently competitive European standard. Now, everywhere you look in our squad is potential, experience, solidity and quality, and it is pleasing to see, with Rooney, Ronaldo and Anderson leading a youthful charge.

The undoubted jewel in the crown is Ronaldo, and this year he has even managed to surpass his heroics of last year, which at some points saw him dragging out results for us single-handedly. This season he has upped his goals, upped his influence, and subsequenltly upped the adoration of the Red faithful toward him.

Years ago, when the whole 'Winker' problem reared it's head, Ronaldo was the 2006 recipient of the biennially awarded 'English Scapegoat Award', given to someone on the opposing side who all of England, led by the rabid tabloids, can assign blame to for their own insipid performances. The fact we dragged on to penalties in a game we never deserved to win could not distract from Ronaldo's actions in giving his little wink to the bench- England was apoplectic, but I wasn't particularly.

At it's most base, I could kind of understand it. Football at the highest level is strictly about winning and losing and if Rooney had wound up Ronaldo and got him sent off, all of England would have been applauding his perfidious actions. I'm not a cheat by any means, but having played and watched football for many years, this thing always happens, it's part of the game. As for people on high horses about it, if in the next World Cup Rooney jumped with an Argentinian goalkeeper in the quarter-final and punched the ball into the net, how many would moan? I'd probably go down the nearest tattoo place and have the joyous scene etched across my entire back. I was the first to complain that if we lost Ronaldo after the World Cup, we would heartily regret it. As it was, the little genius stayed,

Now don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure that if Ronaldo played for anyone else, I would hate him. That swagger, that air of knowing exactly how good he is, the insouciant shrug as he smashes the ball past yet another despairing dive, by God the man exudes arrogance. But so what, why shouldn't he revel in being that good? At Old Trafford early this season, as I watched him float across the turf, the world's biggest collective intake of breath accompanying his every touch, I finally understood what it is about him. It's magic, that je ne sais quoi that seems to surround the greatest players. Every time he got the ball, anticipation soared to the rafters. I make no apologies for saying this, but he could possibly be our generation's Georgie Best. I know all about our history, of the greats that have worn red, but I just know this lad, along with Rooney and probably Rio (who is never really appreciated until he isn't there), will take his place in the pantheon of Manchester United greats. The cockiness, the looks, the dual-footedness, the goals, the dribbling, the fact he gets repeatedly hacked to the ground only to pick himself up and be a winner, it is Best all over. Sure, Ronaldo has got some years to go to perfection but think about it, if he's still maturing and he's at this level now, within five years he could be one of the world greats, the Greats. I only worry about his mercenary tendencies, as though I do believe he loves the club, it still gnaws at me that he could be one day tempted away. I do hope it will be a long, long way into the future.

This is the most excited I've been for a long time over a Manchester United squad, whose potential is mind-blowing. I certainly hope our success, coupled with the beautiful football we've been playing, continues for a long while to come.

Oh, and Wesley, sign the bloody contract. You've matured brilliantly, you're a Longsight lad, and £50,000 a week is not to be sniffed at. Our defence has operated well even without Gary Nev and it's good to have Mancs in the team. So go on, sign.


Come On United


Paul M


P.S A parting joke: Liverpool FC! Hahahahaha, dear oh dear it gets me every time...

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