Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has spoken about the time that he first realised that Cristiano Ronaldo was going to be a superstar. The former United captain has already spoken about former teammate John O’Shea needing an oxygen tank after facing the player against Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly weeks before Sir Alex Ferguson signed the player, who should be considered as one of, if not the best player in the world right now.
Ferdinand, now a pundit for the television, explained how an 18-year-old Ronaldo dazzled him in that pre-season friendly in 2003. The Portuguese winger made such an impact against United that Ferguson and former chief executive of United, David Gill delayed the team bus from leaving the ground for an hour as they tried to do business for Ronaldo after the match. It was a match to christen the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon with United wasting little time to steal an advance over their rivals.
Ronaldo showed his grace when signing for United on the 12 August 2003, replacing David Beckham at the club, who had left for Real Madrid in July for £25 million. Ronaldo donned the famous number seven shirt at United and helped the club win nine major honours including; three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup. The winger made 292 appearances for United, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists in six years before leaving for Real Madrid himself in the summer of 2009.
The you look at the career that Ronaldo has had and is still having, you can see what a truly world class player he is. United signed a player with potential with Ferguson helping to turn the player into a world star. It would have been great for United to keep the player for his entire career, but it was not meant to be. Ronaldo had a dream that he wanted to achieve and I think he has more than done that. Ferdinand, speaking to BT Sport and reported by The Sun, was quoted as saying:
“He started there. We arrived there coming back from America on tour, this was the last leg everyone was knackered, jet-lagged etc and we got asked to play in it late.
“We obviously got there, opened the stadium, we came off that pitch and anyone who didn’t know about Cristiano Ronaldo before we got there definitely did by the time we left.
“When we got to the stadium in the pre-match warm-up, people started, it got around – people saying that kid there, he’s meant to be a superstar. Bearing in mind we’d missed out on signing Ronaldinho as well that summer.
“We were still on the search for a superstar but we didn’t see it coming in the form of a young teenager. But by the time the game finished all the players were saying to the manager ‘When are we going to get him?’
“We were sat on the coach after – ‘Where are we going?’ – delayed an hour, want to get home after a big tour. And the manager and David Gill, the chief executive at the time, were upstairs doing a deal trying to sign him straight away, great recruitment.”
This season, if the Ballon d’Or was still happening, Ronaldo could well have matched Lionel Messi’s sis trophies but he would have had a hard task of winning with the performances of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who might have beaten the Portuguese winger, as Luka Modric did in 2018 with Ronaldo coming third in 2019. United were lucky to see the player in the flesh at a young age which changed the course of history for both United and Ferguson, who reached the promised land for the second time in his career after seeing his side beat Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final in 2008.
Written by John Walker