If you believe the rumours, Cristiano Ronaldo has talked Sir Alex Ferguson into giving him a starting berth against Chelsea. You won’t need a Sky Sports advert to remind you that this a massive game. Huge. The “first classic of the season” is how one bookmaker is describing it. I didn’t realise we had “classics” in English football, but that only serves to show the magnitude of the game. The first classic ever!
In midweek Fergie had suggested that the Chelsea game would be a “big ask” for his star winger who has only just returned to fitness. But the Manchester United boss has suddenly changed his tune. He said: “Cristiano is a natural athlete and he has trained very well, so I would have no qualms about him playing against Chelsea. It is just a question as to whether this is the right time, but I have no fears about him and he is bursting to play. He has been nibbling at my ear all week.”
Ferguson might have come round to the idea of playing Ronaldo against their title rivals, but I cannot believe that he has “no qualms” about this. None of his other players, Wayne Rooney possibly excluded, would be playing a part in this match after just a few minutes of football against Villarreal.
The Chelsea match is likely to be paid at breakneck speed. There will not be many places to hide and it will not be the environment for a player lacking in match fitness. The truth is that including Ronaldo, particularly from the start, would represent a big gamble for Ferguson. But Ferguson realises – like many of the United fans who responded to my post yesterday – that a United side without Cristiano Ronaldo in it is significantly weaker than one with him in.
He might therefore decide on the back of the defeat to Liverpool and the failure to defeat Villarreal that his gamble would be worth it.