So once again Cristiano Ronaldo gets Manchester United out of jail, this time against Atalanta, and his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calls him his ‘Michael Jordan’.Mark Webster writes…
Well, you could slam dunk me with a feather!! I was lucky enough to be working in the States for Channel 4, covering the 3 remarkable years when Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA titles in the late 90’s.
This came after he’d already earned them a hat trick of championships at the start of the decade.
In between, by the way, he became a professional baseball player. Have I miss Ronaldo’s season bowling some medium pace dobbers for Lancashire?
During that decade, across two spells, Jordan turned himself from the best player in the league, into an international superstar. With multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike and Gatorade which helped make him a billionaire.
And with all due respect to those brought in to play alongside him (perhaps only Scottie Pippen aside?) he did it with teammates who surely still send him a Christmas card every year thanking him for the championship rings they so easily wouldn’t have had without him.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that without Jordan in those line-ups, Chicago’s greatest claim to fame might still be the deep dish pizza?
Unlike Jordan, from the days the brilliant young Portuguese winger broke into the first team at United, Ronaldo was surrounded by the cream of the crop of international football. And as part of those money-is-no-object, crown jewels teams, he won League titles and a Champions League medal.
That in 2008, alongside, it’s worth noting, the likes of Edwin Van Der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, and with Ryan Giggs on the bench. Not too shabby.
Now, he’s back at Old Trafford. Only this time he’s playing for a United that looks like it’s not even within flag waving distance of those titles, or that Final.
Yet it still has a squad made up of hundreds of millions of pounds-worth of top notch players. It would appear there’s not much, if anything, that even the mercurial Cristiano, and his last ditch goals, will be able to do about that.
If Michael Jordan had this much talent around him, he would have won seven Oscars, two Nobel Peace Prizes, completed The Sunday Times crossword and beaten Elon Musk into space, piloting a rocket he designed and built with his bare hands. With all his team-mates in the back swigging the complimentary champagne.
In Chicago, Michael Jordan worked miracles with a variety of sides. But one thing remained constant. His coach, Phil Jackson.
Arguably the greatest leader in any team sport. So perhaps Ole might want to think less about relying on his Number 7 constantly being his Number 23? And more about how his basketball counterpart managed to create so many winning teams? Or he might soon be taking to the floor for his Last Dance in Manchester.