Champions League: Roma Versus Manchester

Clean up the spectacles and dig the ball out

The opening shot of the game was of Ferguson cleaning off his spectacles and pulling out a few pieces of gum to start chomping on. Well, he did clean off his specks but we didn’t see the gum being pulled out, although he did have a game to watch that he could enjoyably chomp along to.

How frustrating it must be to have an English team come in and out style you? The Italian names still role off the tongue better than most of the players on the Manchester side, compare Marco Cassetti to Michael Carrick, but their play is not on par these days the EPL.

As Tommy Smith mentioned on EPSN2, United picked their spots in this game. They defended when they had to and attacked with gusto when there was a chance. On top of all that, their keeper, Edwin Van der Sar, made a number of superb saves to keep the game locked down when it was 1 nil.

But Manchester United just puts pressure on you and once they get a glimpse of your wanting to lie down and give up, they ante up the pressure. Scholes sent a nice little chip into the box and Ronaldo, who was trailing the play, got up to met the ball and fought off the defender to smack the ball down with his head. 1-0 Manchester United.

Later, a long cross look to be too long, but Park dug the ball out and headed the ball back across the goal mouth, just out of the reach of the keeper and it fell to Rooney. 2-0 to Man United.

Next, the confidence zoomed for Man U. Cristiano swerved past a defender and struck the ball off the post. This year Man U will win the EPL and the Champions League—it’s a double year for Ferguson. Maybe he’ll start blowing bubbles and not just chomping down on his gum, bust out some 3-D glasses when his club plays Wigan on the final day of the season—just to make it more interesting.

The thing that’s scary about Cristiano Ronaldo, and besides his obvious talent and skill, is his strength, fitness, and power. There’s certainly power in his free kicks and shots, but his upper body strength and ability to fight off defenders, fearlessness, will take him beyond the amazing status he’s at right now. The header he scored in this game was astonishing. There was no fear in Cristiano in attacking the ball. He’s not hesitant to get into the mix say like Henry—I hate to even knock Henry but that might be his only fault.

Sure, Ronaldo will go down easy at times, but more often than not these days he’s getting kicked and it’s not all play acting.

For Ronaldo, the worry now, or an increasing worry that grows the more goals he scores and teams he embarrasses, is players targeting him in the tackle or off the ball. He’s now scored 36 goals in all competitions, and needs just 10 more to eclipse Dennis Law’s 46 total. But in this Roma match time and time again, Ronaldo was clipped, hit, nudged, pushed or kneed, when he had the ball and even off the ball. The question for Ronaldo is will he have to tone down is exuberance or showing off? He is justifiable excited after scoring and for a moment did a few step overs and touches near the sideline before laying the ball off but took a hit for it. The dance by Cristiano wasn’t necessarily warranted, and incensed Pizarro, who blatantly hit Ronaldo after he’d laid the ball off. Pizarro was given a yellow card—off the ball tackles are just cheap and sad to see. It’s one thing to go in a little harder next time when there’s a chance for a tackle, but there’s no place for cheap tackles when a player isn’t expecting it.

Pizarro said:  ‘Despite the fact that he is a great champion, he is very arrogant,’ said Pizarro. ‘He does certain spiteful things on the pitch.’

Ronaldo’s response:  ‘It’s nothing against my rivals,’ said the 23-year-old. ‘Those plays are just part of my way of interpreting football.’

Sure, Ronaldo might have to tone down is dancing when it’s over done and not part of an attacking move let’s say, but I think he’s done that already over the past few years. Now, he’s just growing into a player of extraordinary abilities, and the frustration by other players and teams is only going to grow.

The really scary and frustrating thing for other teams is that when one of the members of R&R comes off the pitch, Carolos Tevez comes on. In this case it was Rooney who came off for the Argentine.

Extra: I can now see why Ferguson let Heinze go to Real Madrid, at first I was in disbelief. But Patrice Evra is a player of a different class. Evra serves in wonderful crosses, has great speed and strength, and gets up into the attack—his skillfulness is top notch for a defender. Short little one twos and keeping the ball are his game. Is he better than Daniel Alves of Sevilla? It’s a close race.