Ronaldo geared towards another United campaign
Manchester United 0 Arsenal 0
Monday 18 May 2009
The Bentley was parked up on the concourse outside and its owner was holding court in the dressing room, taking the rise out of the whole football media circus when he was handed a microphone to do an interview with Anderson. "He says we didn't play very good today and now are focused on Barcelona," said Cristiano Ronaldo, translating for Anderson and then telling him, with mock punditry: "You are a little bit disappointing because you come on and you touch the ball only one time today... OK thank you very much. This is Sky Sports..." It has not been possible to say this of Ronaldo over the past nine months but on Saturday he was funny; very funny.
It does not get much better than this for a player, even if the traffic lights on Sir John Gilbert Way had turned to green then back to red before he had finished signing the match programmes pushed into the Bentley by supporters who couldn't believe their luck. Sir Alex Ferguson clearly believes that events may yet keep the Premier League's leading scorer at Old Trafford for at least another year.
Ferguson revealed yesterday that Ronaldo also received some jibes over Barcelona's recent 6-2 mauling of Real Madrid – "our players were telling him that if he goes to the Bernabeu he'll have to play centre-half," he said – and perhaps the thought of what lies ahead at the two clubs makes the prospect of being at Old Trafford in 2010 more palatable than it did last summer.
The signs of continued world domination were all around him in that dressing room. Anderson, lounging alongside him, seems to be United's coming man in central midfield. He was one of those Ryan Giggs would have had in mind when he reflected on Saturday evening that this Manchester United is "a young team and all set to go on and win much more".
Behind Ronaldo as he played the TV personality was a rather bashful Wayne Rooney, overshadowed by his playing partner here in a way that he has certainly not been on the pitch this season. Rooney has arrived in this, his finest Manchester United year, and Giggs justifiably spoke of him as one of the leaders now. "Wayne is still quite young but has got natural leadership abilities," Giggs said. "You also see it in Rio [Ferdinand], Wes [Brown], John O'Shea, and Darren Fletcher who really evolved this season."
Pretty much every United player, Giggs included, gave mention to Federico Macheda and his two goals without which this title race may not yet be run but Ferguson reserved his talk yesterday for Danny Welbeck, a likely England World Cup prospect as he sees it, whose electric finish against Stoke City in November has been almost forgotten. Face it, Carlos Tevez: the outlook simply does not look good.
There were some faintly discernible crumbs of comfort for Liverpool in the manner of United's accession to title. The Old Trafford defence still had signs of the shakiness that has afflicted it since Liverpool's visit on 14 March and Robin van Persie might have deflected, if not altered, the course of history had he focused as much on the looping Samir Nasri cross which flummoxed Nemanja Vidic as he did on joining the knot of team-mates who were kicking Patrice Evra all afternoon.
It was shortly before United managed to equal Liverpool's title haul that Anfield formally announced Rafael Benitez's appointment of a new academy technical director, Jose Segura, to deliver the youth system products which are driving United on. But Segura's work is just beginning and Arsenal also have far to travel, despite Arsène Wenger's insistence on Saturday evening that his side will "of course" push United all the way next season. "We have seven players under 22 why shouldn't we hope to be that much better next year?"
United, meanwhile, are already on to their four-in-a-row title challenge. There is much still for the would-be Sky TV reporter to pit himself against before he and his Bentley move on.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; O'Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs; Rooney (Anderson, 90), Tevez (Park, 67). Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Neville, Berbatov, Scholes, Rafael Da Silva.
Arsenal (4-5-1): Fabianski; Sagna, Toure, Song Billong, Gibbs (Eboué, 76); Nasri (Bendtner, 69), Denilson, Diaby, Fabregas, Arshavin (Walcott, 69); Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre.
Booked: Arsenal: Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas, Nasri, Song Billong.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Man of the match: Evans.
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