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Cristiano Ronaldo helps Manchester United rewrite the script

24 February 2009 11:10
It's a great story but not as good as the one heading back across the Atlantic. His editor is in for a surprise. It's all about Manchester United.

"They own this game," he said. Granted it was only half-time, ample opportunity for egg to fill a face. Yet even if a rabbit had leapt from the Special One's hat during half-time, he could not repel the evidence woven in pretty patterns across the first half.

Eye to eye combat? Mourinho did not know which way to look as Fergie's masterplan played out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic versus Cristiano Ronaldo? Mourinho lost that one, too. This was more than a club encounter. The contest thrust under the microscope the respective leagues, the technically superior Serie A, as Mourinho would have it, and the economic miracle that is the Premier League.

The opening 20 minutes forced some hasty revisions on those who share Mourinho's prejudices. United dominated possession and imagination. Ronaldo appeared to have a ball all to himself. Mourinho's candidate for world player of the year, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was lost in the Inter chorus line.

Jose was popping gum like Valium on the touchline. Ronaldo thrice, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs might each have given the English champions a deserved lead. What was Jose thinking now, his team being rolled backwards by the red tsunami.

The New York bulletin will not be quite the fairytale in New York it might have been. And that had nothing to do with the goals that didn't flow. The beer did. American readers will learn how the replica football shirt made its debut at Milan fashion week on the backs of the Manchester hardcore, who turned the streets around the Duomo into the set of Paul Abott's Shameless.

The scene was vintage Chatsworth Estate, the lads making a beer tent of Milan's cultural heart. The Milanese must have thought the Visigoths were at the gates. English football has moved on but the travelling fan has yet to leave the 1970s.

Dulled by flagons of amber nectar, they paraded their basse couture around the city's landmarks barely looking up from the marble floor. The Ultras might be the violent seed of Italy's brainless classes but at least polyester has yet to cling to their backs. The San Siro would not allow it.

So much of Italy's urban culture is based on the British model, particularly in Milan, whose other outfit, AC, started life as a cricket club and boast the cross of St George on their insignia.

Yes, they booed as the United players burst from the tunnel for their warm-up 45 minutes before the game, then looked on with a grudging nod to history as the representatives of football's mother country flexed and stretched before the Manc colony at one end.

Ronaldo ripped across the turf like a performing seal, keeping the ball in the air with one lime green boot before dispatching it in the goal with a histrionic thump. The boy can't help himself.

Those behind the goal, many sobering in the cold, loved it. The stage demanded it.

The San Siro is La Scala for the masses. Arguably the most beautiful slab of concrete in the world, it rises out of Milan's eastern suburbs like a latter day Colosseum with a roof. The noise would turn a gladiator's legs to custard.

One small selectorial surprise, said Sir Alex Ferguson. Depends on your view of Wayne Rooney. His omission made a sage of Jose Mourinho. Yes Ferguson had changed to suit. It's one thing being right, another countering Fergie's gambit.

Inter stepped it up in the second half. How could they not? Ibrahimovic found his considerable feet and Adriano stepped off Hackney Marshes into the game. Chi mangiato tutti pies?

If the Brazilian soul ventures into rugby, Adriano is the man to pack them down. With 15 minutes remaining Adriano was in the shower, the right place for him having played like one.

"Easy, easy" shouted the United fans. Supremacy was not limited to the pitch. In the stands sat the uber fan. Recognition brought a chorus of an old favourite at Old Trafford: there's only one David Beckham. Indeed.

Beckham, always a more plausible concept in these parts, made the most of the photo opportunity afforded by the posting of his former club in Milan. Football's fashionistas watched the United training session on Monday and were back for more long lens action on Tuesday.

David, Italy's neo bello ragazzo, but no longer good enough to get into this United team.

Source: Telegraph