The Ides of March: Cristiano Ronaldo's Red Redemption

MUSC Red Devils NCR
Ronaldo single-handedly destroyed Spurs
Ronaldo single-handedly destroyed Spurs / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

It's strange being Cristiano Ronaldo in this modern world of football. On one hand, you are a footballer that transcends global precedents, wowing the world with feats that can only be construed as a sight of mere fiction in the minds of mortals, breaking records as easily and as naturally as breathing.

A true colossus of the sport, singlehandedly defying the notion of the sport, with his name almost certain to be entered in golden letters when all is said and done. Yet, on the other hand, he is an entity, who more often than not, hovers higher than the club he is in. In many instances, he becomes the club, having a say in matters that are out of his sphere of influence. Wherever Cristiano goes, the baggage follows. You would not want to cross Cristiano in the wrong way. Many managers and players have learned that the hard way in the years gone by, yet here he is, motoring on his merry way.

When it was announced that Ronaldo was coming back where he made his name, there was an atmosphere of reality in and around the club. The prodigal son has found his way back to the Theatre of Dreams, and the fans dared to dream. He started off his second stint like a King asserting his dominance over his subjects, making sure that everyone bent down to his will. It felt that the Red Devils were well and truly on their way to dominating the country and continent.

But then something happened.

The goals were coming, and even results were somehow being achieved, but Ronaldo seemed to be aloof, like a man walking in a different wavelength from the rest. There were instances when it felt like things weren't going to plan. He felt like a man searching for some solace in an entirely new surrounding. There were the usual shows of brilliance, key goals, and the fact he literally carried Manchester United to the knockouts of the UEFA Champions League, like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. But it seemed like he wasn't happy.

Then came the sack for Ole, and in came Rangnick, and it seemed like the proverbial rug was pulled beneath his legs. From November till February, Cristiano Ronaldo wore the look of a man who lost his battle with Father Time. His movements on the pitch depicted him every bit the 37-year-old he was. Slow. Tedious. Cumbersome, and most importantly, a hindrance.

Too often he seemed to be ensconced in his own way, trying to make things happen where they couldn't. It could not be an exaggeration to say that the man was finished, but the way he kept on missing chances that he normally buries with unerring calm and accuracy, you couldn't help but start to wonder whether the fall from grace was inevitable any moment now.

The off-pitch histrionics didn't work either. An explosive interview where he clearly iterated the fact that he will accept nothing less than a top-4 finish, a call-out to all the younger players to basically "buck up" under the guise of saying, "I will help them whenever I can, but it is up to them if they want to learn".

And then the endless and seemingly innumerable reports of the rift between him and captain Harry Maguire, which has divided the team into two cliques, and lastly his endless tantrums on not playing in and out for the whole 90. These can still be attributed to the fact that the club in its entirety is in a state of flux and upheaval, but you still cannot expect to get away with this.

Add to the fact that he had his worst-ever goal drought in his entire career with Manchester United. A man, who built his reputation on scoring goals by the buttload that you expect him to convert a chance in his sleep, went into the new year with only a solitary goal in his last 10 fixtures.

He just couldn't buy a goal, no matter what he tried. And no matter how huge, or how gargantuan you are, even Cristiano Ronaldo felt that he is not at his best. So out came the chants of "he's finished", "he's more of a hindrance than a help", and so on. A man with a seemingly broken body and a steep declining will. Was Ronaldo finally broken?

But this is a question that has always been asked throughout the duration of his career. Many times he's had a cold first half of the season, and people begin to write obituaries about his career in a trice. He is immediately put to the sword the moment he has a lean spell. But this is a man who thrives on adversity. He openly goads his opponents into booing and hating him, and then when all the chips are down. When all hope seems gone, he arrives like the cold, brutal, and inevitable truth that is long overdue.

The moment the clock ticks to the start of the second half of a season, something changes in the man. It's like a switch that is flicked on, and the man turns into a machine. A ruthless, unforgiving machine that stops for no one and scythes through the opposition like a swarm of locusts that ravage one fertile field after another. And yesterday's performance was a clear indication that the man has turned into a machine.

From the moment he stepped on the field, you could sense the change. In the face of unrelenting chaos and the opposition that had its own legend in the making, Ronaldo just stood there, with a frighteningly calm gaze. In the audience was Tom Brady, a man who definitely knows a thing or two about standing in the face of adversity and defying the odds.

Maybe that spurred Ronaldo on to put a show. Or maybe like the great Michael Jordan, Ronaldo did "take it personally". We will never know. But from the first whistle. the man was on a mission to make this game his own. Every run, every touch, and every movement he made was to stamp his authority on his hallowed turf. He ran around like a man possessed, chasing the ball and playing like he found the zest of youth that was so dearly missing early on. His first goal was a thing of godly grace: striking the ball with such ferocity and power, like the god Zeus striking the enemy with his thunderbolt. The ball zoomed past Lloris before he could even get close to it. The switch is well and truly on now.

The second goal made sure that he enters the history books once again, as the man with the most goals scored for club and country in the history of the game. Putting on the afterburners, he raced onto the square ball from Sancho and stabbed it home as his life depended on it. Each time he scored, each time he was pegged back by either the incompetence of his defense or by a stroke of misfortune. But this was his day, his stage, and his time, and he was not going to let anyone upstage him. And so he just went on and scored another. If the first one was a thunderbolt, the third one was thunderous. Even Hugo Lloris could do nothing but just send and admire the ball as it nestled the back of the net. And just like that, the inevitable struck Spurs.

The Ides of March has well and truly begun. The road to redemption for Ronaldo has started. If the past indication is anything to go by, this usually does not bode well for the opposition. Ronaldo could be just starting to flex his muscles now. He has put the entire football world on notice. The winds of change have arrived. The time is now.

Written by: Delwyn Serrao