Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United’s presence might have angered rival fans as the Manchester United’s striker and teammate Harry Maguire have received the most Twitter abuse of any Premier League players, a new report has found.
Ofcom analysis of 2.3 million tweets in the first half of last season found nearly 60,000 abusive posts, affecting seven in 10 top-flight players.
Half of that abuse was directed at just 12 individuals of which eight were from United.
However, the study by the Alan Turing Institute also found the large majority of fans use social media responsibly.
“These findings shed light on a dark side to the beautiful game,” said Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for broadcasting and online content.
“Online abuse has no place in sport, nor in wider society, and tackling it requires a team effort.”
Ronaldo and Maguire most targeted
The first occurred on August 27, 2021, the day Ronaldo returned to Manchester United. That day, 188,769 tweets were sent, three times as many as any previous day, 3,961 of them abusive. That is slightly less than the daily average, at 2.3 percent.
Ronaldo’s 98.4m followers can be largely blamed for the volume of posts. On this particular day, 97 percent of hostile tweets and 90 percent of comments directed towards Premier League players included mentions of the Portugal striker.
The second high point occurred on November 7 after Manchester United’s 2-0 home loss to Manchester City, when defender Maguire tweeted an apology.
Maguire’s tweet followed a run of bad results for Manchester United
On that occasion, 2,903 abusive tweets were sent – 10.6% of the total that day – with many users reacting to Maguire’s post with insulting or demeaning language.
The report also found a duplicated tweet – using the same exact phrase – was sent to Maguire 69 times by different users within two hours.
The study says “it is possible that this duplication occurred because users saw the abusive message and decided to replicate it – indicating organic organisation rather than coordinated behaviour”.
The Alan Turing Institute said that understanding the organisation of online abuse is of increasing interest given the harm caused by co-ordinated attacks and “pile-ons”.
Other players were targeted by large volumes of abuse following a “trigger”, despite receiving relatively few tweets overall.
Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark, now on loan at Sheffield United, was sent off against Norwich in November, with 78% of the abusive tweets he received coming on this day.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace’s James McArthur was also the subject of a spike in abuse after being yellow carded for stepping on Bukayo Saka against Arsenal in October.
Researchers will also look at whether a spike took place when an incident that saw West Ham defender Kurt Zouma kicking and slapping his cat came to light, as that took place after the data was collected.