Cristiano Ronaldo had a front-row seat for Manchester United’s penalty drama last week.
When the Red Devils earned a spot-kick at the death against Aston Villa after Kortney Hause’s goal, supporters were on tenterhooks to see who would step up to the plate at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandes took over from Marcus Rashford as United’s penalty taker in chief when he signed in January 2019, but fans wondered whether Ronaldo’s return might provoke another shift in power.
Man Utd penalty drama
But alas, Fernandes was once again entrusted with responsibilities from 12 yards, which felt like a pretty safe bet when you consider the Portuguese had only ever missed one penalty for United.
However, we all know what happened next with Fernandes watching in horror as his penalty sailed miles over the crossbar and duly consigned United to their first league defeat of the season.
And there were suggestions that Emiliano Martinez might have contributed to Fernandes’ miscue by way of using the dark arts – better known as ‘s***housery’ – before the penalty was taken.
Martinez using mind games
The Independent reports that Martinez was seen shouting: “You take it, you take it,” in the direction of Ronaldo just a few seconds before Fernandes failed to rescue a point for the hosts.
Marry that to Martinez’s taunting celebration once Fernandes had missed and it’s not from without the realms of possibility that the Villa man had managed to psyche his rival out.
However, as Martinez knows better than most, the events of last weekend certainly aren’t the first time that a goalkeeper has tried to get into an opponent’s head before they take a penalty.
When Perin tried to psyche out Ronaldo
In fact, Ronaldo himself faced that very scenario during Juventus’ 3-1 win at Genoa last season with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner appearing to traverse the taunting far better than his compatriot.
With Ronaldo having already scored a spot-kick with a central strike earlier in the game, Marca reports that goalkeeper Mattia Perin proceeded to ask the Juve star: “Down the middle again?”
However, it didn’t phase Ronaldo one bit as he scored once again with a strike near the middle of the goal and twice yelled during the subsequent celebrations: “Where are you going, Perin?”
Mics picked up Ronaldo absolutely destroying Perin 😂 pic.twitter.com/vaRaL8jwN8
— Vecchia Signora Blog (@VeSiBlog) December 14, 2020
Talk about an emphatic response. Perin, despite teasing Ronaldo about shooting centrally once again, decided to plunge to his left-hand side and came nowhere near to saving the strike.
Should Ronaldo take United’s penalties?
Now, it goes without saying that Ronaldo was facing a different kind of mental warfare from the goalkeeper – focusing on where the player will aim as opposed to who will actually take it.
And considering that Juventus were leading 2-1 going into the final minutes of the game, there also wasn’t the same level of pressure when compared to Fernandes trying to rescue a point.
Nevertheless, when you consider Ronaldo’s penchant for scoring late penalties in general, it wouldn’t be unfair to hazard a guess that he might handle the pressure better than Fernandes.
Would that guarantee that he could overcome Martinez’s mind games? Not necessarily, but he’s been there and overcome it before.