Cristiano Ronaldo is a little bit like the Easter bunny in that firstly he seems to have become an almost mythical creature and secondly, if like me you possess an over-vivid imagination, there is almost a physical resemblance in their somewhere.
He can also jump like a hare as the flat-footed Ben Gibson discovered at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“CR7” has often been referred to as “the most annoying man in football” and if I disregard a certain midfielder currently on the books at Norwich City I could agree with that description. However, after the game, he did something rather atypical to celebrate his 60th professional hat-trick by presenting his match ball to young United starlet Alejandro Garnacho.
Some cynics among the United fans say he did this to get the academy lad to carry the ball to the dressing room for him while others believe it was a genuine gesture and a personal gift. I really hope it was the latter.
As for our performance on the day, it’s hard to be too critical. The winner from my Inbox entries this Easter weekend is Herr Cutz. Cutty succinctly summed events up by saying: “A game of mistakes. Pity really, we gave them a fright and a fight.”
Ben Gibson has been given a real shellacking over his errors that led to United’s first two goals and I must admit I think in this case the criticism is justified although I genuinely don’t like to see any player being singled out for a volley of abuse.
Dean Smith was pragmatic afterwards, saying:
“I was really pleased with the performance today. I thought we showed great belief and great confidence. I thought we were good on the ball at times, but we made big mistakes which has cost us goals and unfortunately that has cost us the result today.
“Gibbo knows he has made an error to start with [for the first goal) and then Ronaldo has got across him for the corner as well, but in terms of that goal, they shouldn’t have got to the corner. Milot [Rashica] doesn’t follow his man and they end up having a shot and a corner and then Gibbo, unfortunately, allows Ronaldo to get in front of him for the header.
“The resilience and spirit from the boys is there. The fans can see we are fighting and unfortunately we gave a soft free-kick away. I think Tim Krul will believe that he probably could have saved it.”
Some folks were less than pleased with the substitutions but as Gary said yesterday those decisions were kind of vindicated when we discovered that none of them were tactical. Dean Smith’s choices of Pepe Placheta and Billy Gilmour over Jonathan Rowe and Lukas Rupp remain a matter for debate of course although Rowe did get on for a cramped-up Pierre Lees-Melou eventually.
Kieran Dowell will be an important figure for us in the Championship next season and was upbeat afterwards:
“I thought we showed loads of spirit from going 2-0 down to get back into the game at 2-2 and then Ronaldo has put one in the top corner from a free-kick.
“I thought the tactics were good again. We felt that if we could get past their midfield line then we could get at their back four and it happened quite a few times. We probably didn’t capitalise on that enough, but it worked well at times. That performance should give us confidence going into Newcastle.”
We can surely take a bit of reassurance from this defeat although this United squad is getting a lot of stick from their supporters. Not every venomous outburst is reserved for the Glazers I can assure you.
I worked amongst what I would describe as “real”, locally-based Citeh and United fans in Cheadle Hulme for around 20 years and would habitually buy a copy of the Manchester Evening News most times I stayed overnight.
It must be over 15 years now since I last saw a printed copy so I thought I’d take a look online to see what their fans were thinking after the match. There were over 80 comments and counting; a high percentage of those thought we were not only unlucky not to get a draw but also could have won. Most were highly scathing of their own team and owners so it proves that whether you’re top six or spinning the yo-yo, passion is a quality possessed by every true football supporter, not that many of us let off flares thank the Lord:
So we move on to the clean-cut Eddie Howe and his expensively refreshed Mags on Saturday for what I believe will be the last traditional 3pm kick off of our season thanks to the PL accommodating West Ham and Leicester with rearrangements.
We can’t even blame the FA this time, which reinforces the view that the influence of non-terrestrial television continues to re-write the script of our beloved game.
I hope all MFW readers had an enjoyable Easter break and although I can’t link this song to NCFC specifically, it’s the only one I know of that is even vaguely about Easter. Beware, it features an image of Tony Blackburn getting up close and personal with a Womble: