Gary Neville suggested that a Manchester United player was more to blame for Portugal’s World Cup exit than Cristiano Ronaldo, who he believes is currently overachieving rather than underachieving.
Portugal was knocked out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals by Morocco, a surprise package. The team featured some of the Premier League’s best players, including Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva, and Bruno Fernandes. Morocco, on the other hand, proved to be too difficult to crack.
Fernando Santos’ team was defeated 1-0, and the Portuguese manager has since lost his job as a result. On Thursday, the 68-year-eight-year old’s tenure as president came to an end.
Santos controversially decided to rest Ronaldo for Portugal’s knockout round matches against Switzerland and Morocco.
The gamble paid off against the Swiss, as replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a stunning hat-trick. However, Ramos was ineffective against Morocco, and when called upon from the bench, Ronaldo was unable to turn the tide.
Now, in an interview with Sky Sports, Gary Neville insists that Ronaldo is not to blame for Portugal’s exit, on the contrary.
Neville emphasized that what Ronaldo is doing at the age of 37 is an overachievement, not an underachievement.
Neville also blamed two Manchester stars who should have known better in the failed comeback attempt late on.
Neville takes aim at Manchester United and Manchester City players
“I wouldn’t call Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance an underachievement,” Neville said. “I think what he’s doing at the age of 37 is an overachievement.”
“It’s just the way in which it ended with him being out of the team and obviously at the end [Ronaldo in tears after the final whistle].
“I thought Portugal were really poor in that last half hour against Morocco.
“You look at how to chase a football match and this was nothing to do with Ronaldo, I thought [the failed comeback] was more to with Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes and how they played in the game.
“They were so deep down the sides of Morocco’s team that they were forced to play impossible passes or play sideways and recycle the ball.
“You think about living in spaces where you might get the ball less in pockets and being patient and waiting for your defenders to serve it into you.
“They have good defenders back there that can deliver the ball forwards, so I just thought the tactics of how they chased the game at the end were wrong.
“I was more disappointed in Portugal as a group than in Cristiano.”
Was it really Bruno Fernandes’ fault?
On the surface, Neville’s criticism of Fernandes appears harsh. According to FotMob, the Manchester United playmaker was statistically Portugal’s best player by a wide margin.
Fernandes received an overall rating of 7.70, with Otavio of Portugal coming in second with a rating of 7.31.
Fernandes only missed eight of his 58 attempts, created three chances, and hit the crossbar.
Of course, football is played on the field, and the statistics only tell part of the story. However, from a statistical standpoint, the 28-year-old appears to be taking unnecessary heat from Neville.