Cristiano Ronaldo: Will he be superstar or super sulk in the second half of the season?
With his dream move to Real Madrid little more than a mirage at the moment, Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled for form in recent weeks. But will he return to his best form over the next few matches or be guilty of on-field indiscipline, asks Dan Fitch.
'You Can't Always Get What You Want' sang the Rolling Stones on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. There's a lot of truth in the sentiment of this song, although it seems to me like the Stones got everything they wanted in life and if that's not the case, then they're bloody greedy.
We all know that Cristiano Ronaldo didn't get what he wanted in the summer, which was a move to Real Madrid. The Spanish club made such a ham-fisted job of the negotiations that they completely soured their relationship with Alex Ferguson; a man who holds onto a grudge like a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother holds onto their remaining ounce of fame.
Such is Ferguson's anger over the matter that it is very difficult to see Ronaldo being allowed to move to Madrid, whilst the Scot is still in charge of things at Old Trafford. It's possible that Ferguson will quit at the end of this season, but then it's equally possible that he'll continue for a couple of further years.
It's hard for someone to have to stick around in a place where they no longer want to be, especially when they've got no idea when they'll be actually be able to leave. Some players in similar situations (such as Gareth Barry at Villa) have knuckled down and continued to play their best football, but it is debatable if this has been the case with Ronaldo.
Last season was phenomenal for Ronaldo as he scored 42 goals, earning him the Ballon d'Or for 2008. So far this season, Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in all competitions. Though it's true that he missed the start of the campaign with an injury, it's clear that his form is nowhere near that of last season, especially in recent weeks.
So is this dip in form just down to Ronaldo's sulking, or are other aspects responsible? A little of both I'd say. It's clear that Ronaldo really wanted to go to Madrid, yet upon returning to the United team in September he scored an impressive 7 goals in his first 9 games. Since then his form has taken a turn for the worse, which I think is as much due to United's tactics than his mood.
Last season saw Ronaldo enjoying the fruits of Rooney and Tevez's labours. His fellow attackers did the majority of the defensive work, leaving Ronaldo free to do what he does best. This season Berbatov has been added to the mix and he's about as acquainted with hard work as the royal family. Consequently, Ronaldo's had less freedom this season.
Brilliant players are also likely to be marked tighter and fouled more often. In recent weeks Ronaldo has become frustrated and got involved in tussles with Scott Brown (Celtic), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Andy Wilkinson (Stoke) and Emanuel Pogatetz (Middlesbrough), in which he could easily have added to the red card he received against Manchester City. Perhaps he fancied having some time off over Christmas and New Year.
Ronaldo is currently having a bit of a holiday, as United have faced Southampton in the FA Cup and play Derby in the Carling Cup, allowing Ferguson to name a weakened side. What's for certain is that when Ronaldo returns, United will need him back to his best.
One criticism made of Ronaldo, even last season, was his inability to turn it on in the really big games. United only picked up 1 point from their games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the first half of the season and this needs to be improved upon if the title is to be retained. Manchester United are the [2.6] favourites to be Premier League champions and [7.8] to retain the Champions League.
In terms of individual awards, the Betfair punters are obviously wary of Ronaldo showing his true ability in the second half of the season. The Portuguese attacker is the [3.3] second favourite to become the PFA Player of the Year, behind Steven Gerrard at [3.1]. He's also the second favourite at [6.0] to be the Premier League top scorer, despite 9 players having scored at least the same or more goals than Ronaldo this season.
Ronaldo is clearly frustrated at the way he's playing at the moment. The truly great players just get on with it, knowing that they will eventually recapture their best form. Time will tell as to whether Ronaldo is one of the all time greats, or just a kid whose ability on the football pitch is only equalled by his ability to sulk.