Big Ron raises his game to match Zidane and Real


TV View Mary Hannigan: The very least TV3 and ITV should have done was to delay transmission until after the watershed. Or, if they couldn't manage that, they should have issued a warning along the lines of: "The following programme may contain disturbing scenes".

Neither did, though. They should be ashamed of themselves.

It will take a long, long time for little Manchester United supporters to recover from the trauma of seeing Wes Brown attempting to mark Raul. Or David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Mikael Silvestre trying to unknot themselves after attempting to keep track of Zinedine Zidane.

The gist of your average tearful conversation in your average living room that night:


"Yes son."

"You told me Becks was the best player in the whole wide world."

"He is, son."

"Maybe - when he's playing West Brom at Old Trafford, Da, but tonight he was sh . . ."

"Go to bed, son."

In fairness, Bobby Robson tried to warn the little United supporters.

"What's it like bringing teams here," Des Lynam asked him before the game.

"It's hairy. It's scary."

A comment that was accompanied by a sombre, blank stare, as Bobby recalled his trips to the Bernabeu with Barcelona.

Meanwhile. Ron Atkinson might be "growing" increasingly hairless, but he continues to scare the English language as much as Real Madrid's front 10 frighten mere mortals.

"Van Nistelrooy, always predating," said Rooooon, for example, in a tribute to Ruuuuud. And what of Roberto Carlos? "He goes bonking on down the wing," he told Clive Tyldesley who, by now, was agreeing with us that this game shouldn't have been aired until after the kiddies were in bed.

A view that was confirmed in his mind when Ron delved deeper in to Roberto's private life by describing him as "a great bender".

Ron's performance was, if you like, on a par with Zidane's. His finest moment came when he rued Phil Neville's unavailability through suspension. If he was playing, said Ron, he could have man-marked Zidane and made it "10 v 10, if you like".

Ron, then, was saying that Phillip Neville could mark Zinedine "magic in dem there boots" Zidane out of a game of association football. In terms of veracity this was as accurate as the Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammad Said al-Saha's claim that "the Americans are completely surrounded now".

Bobby Robson's match verdict? "Well . . .," he said, and that's all, really, that needed to be said.

After Newcastle's 6-2 setback against United on Saturday? "I saw Manchester United being out-smarted on Tuesday night in Madrid. Today I've seen Manchester United out-skill us," said Bobby, who was clearly thinking: "What the bloody hell would ZZ and Co have done to us?"

"Newcastle do not know what's hit them, it's like Saddam in the bunker. That's what it must have been like in Baghdad," Eamon Dunphy told Bill O'Herlihy on Saturday night. But, if Bill had asked Mr al-Saha for a verdict he'd have said: "Newcastle annihilated those infidels from Manchester 2-6 - and Alan Shearer didn't intentionally elbow Roy Keane in the head."

Anyway. The football clanger of the week came from TV3's Trevor Welch, who told us before Saturday's eircom League tie between Cork City and St Pat's that "potentially, it should be a very exciting game". Ninety minutes later: 0-0.

By then studio pundit Noel King had aged 27 years and was telling us that "it doesn't get much worse than that, it was one of the worst games I've seen in a long, long time. Dreadful."

Hats off to the man, he was honest, unlike the ITV folk who told us that United are alive and well in the Champions League.

Performance of the week? Apart from Zidane? Sally Gunnell, who interviewed (with a straight face) three men dressed as apples, bananas and oranges during the London marathon on the BBC yesterday. And her colleague, who asked a runner disguised as Postman Pat, "Why dress as Postman Pat, dare I ask?".

"Why not," came the reply. Indeed.

As for Paula Radcliffe. Other-worldy. Brendan Foster told us that she intended to celebrate her world-record- breaking run by "having an ice bath".

If that's what it takes to succeed in sport this couch'll do grand.