Where Does Ronaldo Rank Among United's Greats?
George Best 1968. Cristiano Ronaldo 2008. Between the two dates, nothing. No United player won France Football's Ballon d'Or, even in the Treble year our players were overlooked for Rivaldo who hasn't even performed in the Champions League in 1999 as Barcelona were knocked out in the group stages. Isn't it amazing that forty years had to pass considering that two years before Best, Sir Bobby won it and two years before him Dennis Law got the award?
So does it mean that Cristiano Ronaldo is now automatically one of our greatest ever players, a club legend? No. Only time will tell. One may argue that two exceptional seasons isn't enough - well, George Best wasn't the model of consistency and prolonged achievement yet he's rightly lauded as one of the best ever players in the history of the game.
The likes of Bobby Charlton, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs will always be ahead of Ronaldo for me because of their sheer longevity and sustained excellence. Sir Bobby is, for me, untouchable, he's United's best ever player in my opinion. The two modern-day heroes quoted are not fully appreciated yet but they're near the same category.
Ronaldo, however, has much more common with Best than with any of them. Let's face it: it's unlikely that he'll spend more than two more seasons at United - most probably he'll leave in the summer of 2009. He's not one who is always involved, making the team tick like Keane and Charlton, or Cantona. But in terms of individual brilliance, sheer ability he's the best United player since Best and it's no surprise that he got the award for the first time since George himself.
He won't be remembered as the greatest ever at United, he won't be the one remembered most fondly by the fans - but he'll always have a unique piece in our history with his Ballon d'Or win and more importantly, the way he fired us to glory in the Champions League. Much like Best did forty years ago.