Ronaldo: We aren’t scared of Anfield

Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo says that Anfield’s atmosphere doesn’t scare him or his team-mates. Speaking to Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror, Ronaldo says that big games don’t intimidate them. He said: “I never get intimidated and neither does anybody at Manchester United.  We are a team used to the big games and big atmospheres. As players we’ve been involved in World Cups and European Championships, big events across the world, so nothing will stop us doing what we want to do. So we’re going to Liverpool with just one thought in our minds, which is to win.”

It was clear after the league meeting between the two sides last month that United’s victory meant as much to them as winning the cup itself would. In that respect this cup tie takes on even greater significance for the devils: “It’s a derby and they’re all the same in that regard. I’ve played for Sporting Lisbon against Benfica and for United against Liverpool. When you have two close neighbours fighting for the same prize, fighting for the big trophies, it adds an edge. Of course, we know what it means to the fans. They are an important part of football. But the most important thing is we play the game in itself and don’t get distracted by all that.”

To say United aren’t intimidated by the atmosphere at Anfield
sounds a little more like bravado than reality in light of what Gary Neville
did at Old Trafford last month. Still awaiting the outcome of an FA
charge, Neville carried out a celebration that has since lead to talk
of trouble outside the ground between the two sets of fans. Ronaldo,
like a lot of other apologists for Neville, said the new United skipper
was justified in demonstrating his hatred for scousers in that way: “I
saw what Gary Neville did at the end of that game and as far as I’m
concerned it was a normal reaction. We’d just won a tight game, right
at the end. What he did was nothing special at all. If you are a
player, you will always have your own way of celebrating a goal. That
was how Gary felt. Emotions were high. Every player on the pitch was
extremely enthusiastic. Both teams were trying to win and we were the
ones who got the goal right at the end.”

Alex Ferguson has tried to defend Neville saying other players have
done similar things, but nobody has demonstrated such deep-felt hatred
in the way Neville did, and even so it needs to be stopped. The extra
ticket allocation for United compared to league games means Merseyside
police will have a tough job to carry out to prevent trouble from
taking place. Remember Neville doesn’t just say he hates Liverpool, he
says he hates scousers. Even though his brother plays for a scouse team
and his team’s best player is a scouser. The sooner Neville is punished
and made to apologise the sooner we can hope to see everyone move on.

As Ronaldo says, the fifth round of the cup is still an important game,
the fact that these two sides are playing each other just adds to it:
“It’s an important game for us both and the rivalry between the clubs
will put more attention on what happens. But as far as I’m concerned
the only thing that matters is we win – and that’s what we’re going out
to do. I can promise you we will be really up for it and I know the
fans will be too. It’s in the big games like this that you have to be
able to cope with everything and show the fans and opposition just how
well you have prepared for the events that can happen in a game. But we
believe we will do that.”

Ronaldo spoke to Lipton during some promotional work for the
soon-to-be-launched EA Sports game, FIFA Street 2 . The game also
features Rooney and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard – another scouser.
Ronaldo explained how he found it strange to be kicking a ball around a
Manchester council estate: “When I was growing up in Madeira I didn’t
really envisage I’d one day be kicking a ball around a council estate
in Manchester. I grew up in a normal neighbourhood and I learned my
football playing in the street, so some of that remains in me.”

We’re hoping Ronaldo had turned his thoughts away from the streets when
he said: “We’ll try everything at Liverpool. We know what the game
means and we’ll be even more highly-motivated to win. We’re very
confident.” Let’s hope “everything” doesn’t include anything that
shouldn’t be taking place in a football game.

* Pre-order FIFA Street 2 here.