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Standing Ovation? For A Cheat?


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
So we've all forgiven Cristiano Ronaldo then have we? Did I miss a meeting? I've seen some strange things in football this week. I've watched first-hand as a star-studded Tottenham Hotspur side fail to string more than three passes together. I've sat in surprise at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea have racked up four goals in Europe, but I've not seen anything quite as odd as the standing ovation given to Ronaldo as he trotted back onto the Old Trafford turf in midweek.

Did the summer actually happen or was it all a really long, tedious dream? If it was actually all a dream then I'm livid. I'd much rather have had that one with Lindsay Lohan and the banoffee ice cream again. What's happened to those supporters? Have they been sweeping through the newspaper archives with a Stalinist zeal, ripping out any mentions of 'dream moves', 'slavery' or 'Bernabeu'? Is this a state of mass denial?

In case you were living in a cave last summer, and I really wish I had been, here's what happened. In May, Ronaldo pranced about the pitch in Moscow, waving his Champions League medal and telling anyone who would listen that he was staying at Manchester United. Then came the stories from Spain suggesting that he would soon be signing for Real Madrid. Ronaldo could, at any time, have released a statement denying all of this and pledging his future to United, but he didn't. He leaked out little hints and snippets suggesting that he was desperate to go. There were even stories that his agent had already agreed a deal with Real Madrid and that they just needed to force Sir Alex Ferguson's hand in order to push it through. Ronaldo went on holiday, where he went as brown as a teak wardrobe and, like any good athlete, partied with Paris Hilton. Sadly for him, no-one 'forces' Ferguson's hand.

Then there was talk of 'modern day slavery' from Sepp Blatter, the kind of buffoonish, crazy-talk which would have remained nothing more than another hilarious Blatter comedy sketch, had it not been for Ronaldo popping up a couple of days later to agree with him. Rule number one in football, if you find yourself agreeing with Blatter on anything, make an ideological u-turn before someone hears you.

Then finally came the apology, the weak explanation, the vague display of commitment and last Wednesday's return to action. And how did the United fans respond to this summer of confusion, of plotting, of thinly-veiled treachery? They gave him a standing ovation. Astonishing.

At least the Arsenal fans had the dignity and self-respect to give Emmanuel Adebayor a good verbal shoeing when he re-appeared after a summer of similar machinations. Even the Aston Villa supporters, who can't afford to have such lofty principles, let Gareth Barry know that he'd let them down when his move to Liverpool fell through.

With their unblinking, unthinking, unwavering show of adoration, the United fans have shamed themselves. They're like a desperate wife, taking her husband back after his humiliatingly obvious affair with a pretty young intern at work. He's apologised, he's promised that it won't ever happen again and she's happy to carry on as if it never happened in the first place. But it did happen and, you mark my words, it will happen again.