Witnessing Ronaldo Graduate From His United Football Eduaction Was A Joy
Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United as a teenage boy, he departed for the Madrid capital as man. His football education under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson helped him become arguably the best player on the planet, although many would agree he is second to Barcelona sensation Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo joined United for a fee of £12.24million in 2003 from Sporting Clube de Portugal. Unknown by many, supporters were soon to learn that the manager had purchased a player with huge potential and unbelievable talent, but also realised that it was going to take time to work on his all round game.
Ronaldo had the full backing of Sir Alex Ferguson who had the belief that he could succeed at United when he was was handed the iconic no7 shirt, Ronaldo said "After I joined, the manager asked me what number I'd like. I said 28. But Ferguson said 'No, you're going to have No. 7,' and the famous shirt was an extra source of motivation. I was forced to live up to such an honour."
I was lucky enough to be at Old Trafford the day Ronaldo made his Manchester United debut as a 60th minute substitute against Bolton. Chants of "There's only one Ronaldo" echoed around the Theatre of Dreams as the crowd welcomed the Portuguese wizard to the field, he didn't disappoint, it's still the best debut I have seen by a United player.
Yes, I am aware that Wayne Rooney scored a hat trick on his debut for United in a Champions League game in 2004. I think for the overall impact and excitement, Ronaldo's debut easily edges it for me because nobody really knew what to expect that day when United's new no7 took to the field for his 30minute cameo. Rooney on the other hand joined the club as an established talent who was no stranger to Premier League football.
Ronaldo's debut was sensational, within seconds of being introduced to the game he had the Bolton back line on their toes as he worked his magic down the left and the right showing that he was confident on either foot. The step overs were a bit of a novelty with the crowd at the time, but they worked and gained Ronaldo that extra yard.
Ronaldo was introduced to the game against Bolton with United leading 1-0, the match finished 4-0 and its no coincidence that United scored 3 goals whilst the raw Portuguese prodigy was working his magic on the Old Trafford turf. After the match, although he didn't score, supporters, the media and the manager were all praising 18 year old Ronaldo and the impact he had on the game.
"It looks like the fans have a new hero, It was a marvellous debut, almost unbelievable. I felt his penetration could make a difference for us" said Sir Alex Ferguson after the Bolton game.
Cristiano Ronaldo went on to become a Manchester United legend during his time with the club scoring 84 goals in 196 games and winning every top honour he possibly could. Ronaldo never kept it a secret that his dream was to play for the team he supporter as a child, Real Madrid.
Although United supporters would have been devastated to see Ronaldo leave Old Trafford, I got the impression at the time the majority of fans waved him off saying 'thanks for the memories'. Ronaldo is the only player I have seen leave Manchester United who had not fully fulfilled his potential and hit his peak, his name is still sung proudly by supporters who acknowledge and appreciate what he did in his 6 seasons.
Ronaldo was the conductor of the United orchestra when he discovered how to use his talent to the best of his ability, the impact he made was something we will never recapture or replace, he was truly phenomenal in the famous red shirt.
It's sad to think that he will probably play his best football for Real Madrid, he's carried on his sensational form for his new club and is justifying the decision by his new employers to hand over a world record £80million fee for his extraordinary services .
I'm just glad that in years to come I can tell people that seen a legend of world football in the making, it was a pleasure and a joy watching the boy become a man and watching him graduate from his football education at Manchester United.