PREMIER LEAGUE OUTRIGHTS
Manchester City @ 5/4
Chelsea @ 5/2
Liverpool @ 9/2
Manchester United @ 5/1
I Wanna Be Adored
The hot ticket of this weekend’s football action is Manchester United vs Newcastle, where home fans are likely to witness the return of the king, Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh from the success of breaking the international goal-scoring record with Portugal.
In the last couple of weeks, Ronaldo has also broken the record for most replica shirts sold inside 90 minutes; set a new benchmark for re-tweets of a football, movie franchise, or TV cookery show-based tweet; and finally got his manicured hands on the ‘Most Blatant Public Flaunting Of Chiselled Abs Award’…which had been held by Michelangelo’s statue of David since 1504.
This Is The One
The clamour to get tickets for this footballing papal inauguration has sent prices skyrocketing: Manchester United fans being desperate for the opportunity to touch the Adidas-crested hem of CR7. Hell, just to get a glimpse of the hem will suffice for many. To bask in his radiant, honeyed glow. To get a faint, tantalising waft of his overbearing, acetone aftershave in the grey Salford air.
Some weary and bemused Newcastle fans may take the opportunity to sell their away tickets to the highest Mancunian bidder for this particular fixture. The latter will then, in an attempt to blend-in amongst the disgruntled Toon Army, practice their Geordie accent, rehearse their anecdotes of that time they were an extra in Byker Grove, and regale the tall tale of the day they stood shoulder to shoulder in the Gallowgate with Sting and Jimmy Nail and watched Jackie Milburn score a dramatic hat-trick against Huddersfield Town…whilst balancing the first ever Gregg’s vegan sausage roll on his head.
Like that occasion, this Saturday will be an ‘I was there!’ moment. The actual football coming second to the opportunity to post some like-attracting photos of the unveiling and the adoration on Instagram and Facebook. Therein will lie the real victory and three points.
The insurmountable hubris of Manchester band The Stone Roses led them to call their much-delayed sophomore album Second Coming. I rather like the record: it contains big Led Zeppelin-influenced guitars, a handful of really great songs, and some enormous, bowel-loosening baselines.
But it is also an album characterised by bloated over-indulgence; unfettered, escalating ego; and, ultimately, an impalpable sense that this was no longer their time – their moment had passed.
The Roses were a Madchester band and, in late 1994, when Second Coming was finally released, the word was Britpop.
When Solskjær took the wheel of the rusty stretch limousine that was heading into a ditch under José Mourinho, it was clear there was a plan. The talent coming in had to be hungry, keen to make the next step in their careers, and, most of all, they had to be team players. Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and the one who seemed to imperceptibly galvanise the whole operation, Bruno Fernandes.
Cristiano Ronaldo is not one of these.
And how exactly does he fit in amongst the current chrome-plated phalanx of existing attacking options? Despite having a poorer record than Bruno Fernandes, does he automatically assume penalty taking duties? What about Edinson Cavani? What about the young, home-grown players – Rashford and Greenwood – that have provided fans with a different, deeper type of excitement and optimism?
CR7 gets goals. He is driven by an incomparable, unquenchable thirst for breaking records. And, of course, there is immense value in such an attribute. But could his arrival damage other aspects that the team has worked hard to develop? Such as cohesion in adversity; quick, short-passing; and joy in collective, effortful success?
Could the second coming of Cristiano Ronaldo also be ultimately characterised by damaging excess; rampant, riffing ego; and a feeling that the qualities he possesses are now ever-so-slightly out of step with his present surroundings?
Whatever happens, it might be worth getting hold of a ticket to find out…