Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

David Healy: Ronaldo and Manchester United growing up fast

The Champions League just gets better and better. This week we had one of the greatest games in the history of the competition and one of the best goals.

You just can’t keep Cristiano Ronaldo out of the headlines.

For much of this season I don’t believe he has performed the way he can, but he keeps coming up with massively important strikes.

Remember the two against Aston Villa in the Premiership a while back?

No one will forget his astonishing effort against Porto, that’s for sure.

It was a special goal from a special player.

There has been constant speculation since the summer about a possible move to Real Madrid and at times I have to admit that I feel he hasn’t been totally focused, but he still delivers time and time again.

He’s scored over 20 goals this season and made many others.

Some have said he has had a poor campaign. Any player in the league would take a poor campaign like that.

While Ronaldo’s goal was the highlight on Wednesday night, overall I felt it was a very mature performance from Manchester United in Portugal, and I include Cristiano in that.

Porto were a completely different side to the one that shone in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, but you have to give credit to United for that.They took the sting out of the game early on and got the job done.

And now they can look forward to an edge of your seat semi-final with Arsenal.

They cruised to victory over Villarreal, another sign of the confidence in their ranks.

Arsenal’s form has been excellent lately. Put that down to getting their big players back from injury such as Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.

Any team would miss having quality like that.

I just hope that United’s tie with Arsenal proves half as entertaining as the Chelsea v Liverpool clash.

Watching it on television, I was amazed by what was going on. It was terrific to watch.

When Liverpool went 2-0 up on Tuesday night, Chelsea were all over the place and going out.

That’s when the manager Guus Hiddink came into his own by sorting his players out at the break.

They went 3-2 up and I thought that was that until Liverpool took the lead again only for Frank Lampard — what a player he is — to score his second of the night and end the scoring at 4-4.

It really was incredible stuff and although Chelsea came through in the end, I thought Liverpool deserved a lot of credit for the way they approached the match.

People were wondering if they could score three at the Bridge. They ended up hitting four, though unfortunately for them conceded the same number.

I would say that out of all four English teams that played in the Champions League, United sparkled the least, but they are still the team to beat.

Finally, just a few words on Jonny Evans being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

It’s a richly deserved nomination for my mate.

I know he got at least one vote — from me, so hopefully that will help him on his way to what would be a fantastic honour.

Hillsborough anniversary hit me hard

The 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy brought back some memories for me this week.

Back on April 15, 1989, I remember my dad was over watching Rangers play in a Scottish Cup semi-final. I was a kid all those years ago and stayed at home to play a game in Killyleagh that morning.

I recall seeing the terrible scenes on the television and the pictures in papers.

I know footballers get a bad press at times, and yes in this column I have written about how some of them have amazed me in my career because they actually don’t seem to have any real love for the game, but I genuinely believe the majority of players would have taken an interest and been affected by events in Liverpool this week.

What happened back then was tragic and while most of us only think about it when the anniversary comes around, those who lost loved ones have to live with the pain every day. I feel for them.

I watched the Hillsborough Memorial service at Anfield and it was incredibly emotional.

I’m not a Liverpool fan but I had a lump in my throat and the hairs stood up on my neck when You’ll Never Walk Alone was sang.

The families and the Liverpool fans clearly believe they have not had justice over what happened at Hillsborough.

I’m sure their fight for the 96 who died will go on.

And I know they will get the support they need from the people of Liverpool and the club itself.

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After all the excitement of the Champions League, the three English sides who won in midweek face big FA Cup semi-finals this weekend.

Arsenal against Chelsea will be a titanic struggle because both are in form and will fancy their chances.

It’s a 50-50 call and you may be surprised by this but I feel the same way about the other last four game at Wembley between Everton and Manchester United.

This one really intrigues me because it sees two of my old managers going head to head.

Obviously Sir Alex Ferguson is a legendary figure in football, but amongst Everton fans I believe David Moyes (pictured) will soon have similar status.

I can’t speak highly enough of Moyes, who was superb to me as a young player at Preston and who is working wonders at Everton.

You have to remember that while his players aren’t exactly average, Everton fans would admit they aren’t all world class, yet Moyes gets an incredible amount out of them. He really is a fantastic manager.

In 1995 Everton beat United in the FA Cup final. They could do it again you know because Sir Alex may decide to leave a few of his star men out with the Champions League and Premiership greater priorities.

You will be aware of my affection for United, but on this occasion I think it would be nice to see the underdogs come out on top.

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