Manchester United: The Forgotten Contribution of a Certain Portuguese Winger

illya mclellanSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2008

After constantly reading all the articles about how good United are and how they will win again this season with or without C. Ronaldo and how they would have last season as well (which is fantasy if you ask me) I have had enough.

This is a complete and utter fallacy. There is no way in the world that United would have had the momentum to push on to the level they did last season without Ronaldo.

A funny thing I have heard is that he didn't contribute in the big games therefore he was not really that important.

The point to make to these people is this, if not for him being in the team they would not be playing "big" games. The momentum he gave them was priceless.

Last season Ronaldo was able to again demonstrate what it is that makes him a special player, namely the ability to make the break through goal, pass or moment of inspiration that led to United being able to put away opposition that Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool failed too. Thus making way for his team to win the league and compete in the Champions League final. 

It is in a word "momentum," he without doubt last season gave the team the momentum when they needed it through moments of individual skill that were needed at times when elsewhere on the pitch United's big guns were not firing.  

I am of the mind that United will not be able to mount a viable title challenge without him. This is a big call but in terms of what he gave the team last season I think it is not far off the mark.

Good teams need good players to play good football. United have these things without Ronaldo. The difference is that great teams have good players but also a duo or trio of great players that push the good players to new levels of accomplishment they would not otherwise reach.

There is no doubt than on occasion Rooney or Tevez or even Nani popped up to provide this inspirational moment. More often than not though it was Ronaldo who would be the key.

This was evident several times last season on a number of occasions when Ronaldo was able to provide the impetus for United to get into the winning position and maintain pressure on the opposition for the full duration of the match.

All the rubbish about the transfer to Madrid has really stolen the shine away from a season that was the most outstanding from an individual United player since the heyday of George Best.

Throughout every other United season with Ferguson at the helm he has built teams that were not reliant on the individual and therefore would not collapse when individuals were taken out.

Cantona and Giggs at different times were perhaps the closest to reaching the talismanic levels of the great Irishman before Ronaldo did.

If Ronaldo had been taken out of United's team last season I think it would not have been the triumphant season that it was. This was not necessarily because Ferguson's team was lacking in any areas but because though not reliant on Ronaldo they had almost become expectant of him.

A prime example of his importance came nowhere else but at the climax of an already successful season. Realistically there was no other United player who really put a good effort on goal other than the powerful header that Ronaldo scored with.

Admittedly he was given a great ball, by of all people, Wes Brown, but he rose well and expertly nodded it past Peter Cech, who as we all know is no mug between the sticks. Carrick had a chance and hit it straight at Cech, as did Tevez and Giggs's tame effort in the second half was easily cleared by Terry. 

In the league he chipped in with 31 goals doubling the next best tally of 14 by Tevez and Rooney was also a way back with 12. There is no way that United would have sustained the form they did for such long periods without the now much-maligned Portuguese winger.  

I will be interesting to see who steps into the massive void left by Ronaldo because of his surgery. Or if he leaves.

If he leaves I think it will be a miracle if they can replace him in a matter of games like some United fans have been saying they will.

Undervaluing the importance of his contribution to United's success in the past two seasons has gone on long enough. Though he is not yet the player he promises to be, he is still leagues ahead of many others.

United would do very well to keep him and anyone who says otherwise is a fool.

The most horrible thing is for the horde of sycophants that follow this club is that he appears to want to leave which they cannot handle and will never be able to.

How could anyone dare want to leave United? Horror of horrors, is he mad? or stupid? or both?

I don't think he is either. He is just a great player who helped Manchester United to win some major honours. He deserves praise for that and if he wants to go why can't he be respected for his decision?

It always has to be about the betrayal doesn't it? It makes me laugh.

One thing though is certain, United will have a job ahead trying to replace him.