Blame Rooney, Not Ronaldo
“I think Wayne Rooney should go back to the Manchester United training ground and stick one on Ronaldo”
– Alan Shearer
So begins the vilification of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo after his country defeated England on Saturday. While Shearer’s sentiment has been expressed in both thoughtful and vulgar terms in some comments on this site, is he right that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves the blame for England’s World Cup exit?
Ronaldo was certainly involved in the brief melee that proceeded Wayne Rooney’s expulsion, but only after Rooney stepped on Ricardo Carvalho’s groin. It was not clear whether Rooney was shown the card for that move or his push of Ronaldo. In either case it was an action by Rooney that led to his ejection. Ronaldo might have said something to provoke the push, but it was Rooney who lost his temper and did the pushing. He didn’t have to step on Carvalho’s groin. He didn’t have to push Ronaldo. He did both.
Instead of scorning Rooney for his problematic temper, the blame has gone to Cristiano Ronaldo. It is easy not to like Ronaldo. He is adored by women around the world and his flashy style of play is both mesmerizing and annoying. He whines a lot, he pouts a lot and he comes off as being arrogant. He plays for a Manchester United team that you either love or you hate and he hasn’t exactly been a choir boy playing for that team.
But none of that should matter in this situation. England didn’t lose because of Cristiano Ronaldo. They lost because they were overly reliant on a Wayne Rooney who was coming off of injury and whose temper came back to bite them in the backside. They lost because they once again stunk in a penalty shoot out.
There is also no guarantee that England would have won the game even if Rooney remained in the game and they didn’t have to play a man down for the last fifty minutes.
The reaction to Ronaldo reminds me of what we saw in 2002 when South Korea’s Ahn Jung-hwan scored the game winner against Italy and then was essentially run out of the country by his Italian club team.
Ronaldo faces a similar fate. If I were a gambling man I would say that Rooney will never get that chance to stick one on Ronaldo at Manchester United’s training ground, which might just be the only bit of justice that comes out of all of this.