First of all a little story to tell you what kind of man we are talking about. It is January 9, 2008, and in an upstairs room at Manchester United’s training ground five elderly men in smart blazers are struggling with their emotions in front of a hushed audience. It is the club’s media day building up to the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and Sir Bobby Charlton’s polite smile does not hide the fact he is trembling as he takes his seat. Bill Foulkes is straight-backed and dignified but only a couple of questions have been asked before the tears appear in his eyes and he reaches for a glass of water.
In an adjacent room Wayne Rooney has agreed to offer a modern-day perspective of that seminal day when 23 people, including eight members of Sir Matt Busby’s team, were killed in the wreckage of the burnt-out BEA Elizabethan. It is not his specialist subject but he handles the occasion with dignity and more eloquence than some people might imagine. But then Cristiano Ronaldo comes through the double doors and the mood is broken.
He is wearing a white suit jacket and ripped jeans, looking every bit the boy-band hunk, but it is very obvious he is in a bad mood. He begins by berating Karen Shotbolt, the club’s press officer, because he is waiting for Rooney and the event has over-run. He is banging his watch with his hand, flapping his arms and gesturing in the way that Portuguese footballers usually reserve for fussy referees and, at first, he is so animated it appears as if it might be a wind-up.
When he flounces back through the doors, cursing loudly, it is very obvious he is being deadly serious. Rooney is professional enough to carry on with his tribute but the attention is no longer exclusively on him. Thirty seconds later Ronaldo appears again, first rapping his forefinger against the glass in the door, then opening it by a fraction and starting to whistle at Rooney in the way that a farmer beckons his sheepdog.
As an added twist, you have to wonder about the article itself. Taylor is the regular United ‘beat’ reporter for the Guardian, to the extent that the British press have such things. We know that Sir Alex is not always forgiving of bad press. Taylor relies on Ferguson for access. So he wouldn’t cross him without permission, would he?
Am I reading too much into this? I just can’t see Daniel Taylor writing this story unless a) Ronaldo is already gone, or b) he’s got clearance from Old Trafford. I don’t know – Rob from FtF is a journalist, perhaps he can add something – but this is far beyond the usual sort of information we usually get. Intriguing. Or maybe not, maybe Taylor’s just made a judgement call. Or maybe it doesn’t matter; it’s not like we all thought Ronaldo was a Saint is it?
Makes me all the more proud that Roy seems intent on making our club one of dignity, of correct behaviour, etc (see FulTime for more).