John O’Shea needed ‘oxygen tank’ after playing against Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003

Manchester United signed a relatively unknown player in Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2003, the same summer that David Beckham left the club after a bust up with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Before Ronaldo was signed by United, the club has a pre-season friendly with his club and as former United defender and captain Rio Ferdinand puts his, his teammate, John O’Shea needed an ‘oxygen tank’ after the match because of the performance of the 18-year-old Portuguese winger.

United were beaten 3-1 by Sporting Lisbon in that match but it had allowed Ferguson to see more of Ronaldo, who was tipped to be a player of a new generation of the time, and they were right. Ferguson was adamant to sign the 18-year-old, which he did only a matter of days later but O’Shea was left feeling dead on his feet after United were given the runaround by the Portuguese club. Speaking as part of EA SPORTS and COPA90’s “Stay Home. Play Together” campaign and reported by The Sun, Ferdinand said:

“We played against Sporting in 2003, we get in at half-time and John O’Shea must’ve needed an oxygen tank next to him.

“He was in bits and he was sitting there panting. We were telling him to get closer to Ronaldo and he couldn’t even answer us.

“To be fair, me, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were standing there going ‘this kid’s unbelievable, we’ve got to sign him’.

“We got on the coach and we were delayed for about an hour and a half, and then they said they were doing a deal to sign Ronaldo now.”

Of course, the rest is history with Ronaldo signing for the Old Trafford club for just £12.24 million less than a week after this match and the player was handed a starting role at the club and Beckham’s old shirt, the famous number seven. It was a while before Ronaldo started to show what he could do for the club, being tricky and quick as United looked to overcome the loss of Beckham but the England captain was soon forgotten as Ronaldo started to find his feet at the club. At the time he signed for United, Ronaldo said:

“I am very happy to be signing for the best team in the world, and especially proud to be the first Portuguese player to join Manchester United.

“I look forward to helping the team achieve even more success in the years to come.”

The player literally became one of, if not the best player in the world at United and in the summer of 2009, left for Real Madrid for £80 million. It was a big loss for United but the six years the player had at United literally kickstarted his career in world football. Ronaldo made a total 292 appearances for United, scoring 118 goal and 69 assists. At United, Ronaldo won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one FA Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. Individually though, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or at United being the first United player since George Best (1968) and Sir Bobby Charlton (1966)to win the award.

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.