Date:Wednesday May 6 2009
I was firmly against the idea. Rooney on the left, Ronaldo through the middle? What's the point? Why put a great striker on the wing and a great winger up front?
Well, that's why. Rooney's playing some of the best football of his career on the left these days while Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed there's future for him up front.
Too often his attitude wasn't right this season, true, but I'm beginning to believe that his diminished effectiveness compared to last season was mainly due to the fact that Sir Alex all too often played a 4-4-2 in which Ronaldo's potential is not maximised.
I'm a huge fan of Berbatov and firmly believe he will come good but this season he has not been able to reproduce what Louis Saha achieved in 2006/07 where his pacy, mobile centre-forward displays brought the best out of Ronaldo on the wings.
Last season, however, Ronaldo played centrally more often than not and even when he was deployed wide he was usually part of a fluid, interchanging front three which suited him wonderfully - his stats confirm that. This season's less fluid 4-4-2 meant a more fixed position for him which he did not relish.
However, just look at the way he exploded against Spurs after Tevez was brought on and our considered 4-4-2 approach gave way to utter madness. Look at his excellence against Porto where he won us the game with a ridiculous goal and played his forward role to perfection, helping United to keep the ball, giving time to his teammates to come further up the field with the attacks.
And his display at the Emirates tonight (OK, yesterday night) was just about everything you could ask from a centre-forward. He scored a fabulous free-kick, started and finished a sweeping counter-attack, drifted wide, dropped deep, won headers and got his shots on target. Oh, he was a danger from corners as well.
This is what he loves, what he craves: the freedom of the pitch, to be able to roam all over the field. He doesn't have the intelligence or the discipline of Wayne Rooney but possesses even more sheer, explosive talent which must be utilised. Playing him as an orthodox winger, seemingly, is not a very good option anymore.
Very often I felt this season that we might have cashed in on Ronaldo last summer. Not anymore. I dearly hope we can hold on to him, that his words about his Madrid dream being dead were honest because he's just about irreplaceable. After tonight's magnificent showing, I feel I'd miss even his arrogant swagger.
Was he rubbish in this big game? Did he look like as if his heart's not in it?
Date:Wednesday May 6 2009
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