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Ryan Giggs names Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes as the best two players he ever played with at Manchester United

Manchester United winger, Ryan Giggs spend the entirety of his playing career at the Old Trafford club, making his debut on the 2 March 1991 at the age of 17 and playing his last match on the 6 May 2014, aged 40 at the time. It was a successful period of time for the Welsh winger, who is now the manager of his home nation, Wales.

Giggs played a total of 963 times, starting 802 times, appearing as a substitute 161 times. He scored 168 goals in his club career, also assisting 247 times, playing more than 68,000 minutes of football. Giggs is the most decorated player in English club history, winning nearly everything he could in the game, including 13 Premier League titles.

Giggs has played with many great players, including Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes. However, it is the latter two who he considered the best players he has ever played with. Speaking recently with Manchester United, he said:

“The best player I played with is Cristiano Ronaldo. Obviously he was only there for a short space of time and he was brilliant for United and then went on to do even better elsewhere.

“Scholesy is the best player I’ve played with at United. You’ve all seen it in training – you couldn’t get near him. His brain was just quicker than everyone else, his range of passing, nasty.

“You think you’ve got him and he’ll just pop it off and give it the little faint. He was just brilliant in training.”

Ronaldo was a magnificent player and one that United missed after he left for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. For United, he made a total of 292 appearances for the club, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists, winning three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the FA Community Shield, the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Ronaldo signed for United from Sporting Clube de Portugal in the summer of 2003, after playing 31 times for the club, scoring five goals and five assists, replacing Beckham and wearing the famous number seven shirt, scoring some cracking goals, from his free-kick against Portugal to the opening goal of the Champions League final in 2008.

Leaving United in the summer of 2009 for £80 million, Real Madrid was his future, playing a total of 438 times for the club, scoring 450 goals and 131 assists, winning La Liga twice, four Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups, among others. Now playing for Juventus, Ronaldo has played 75 times, scoring 53 goals and 14 assists, winning the Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana.

Scholes played for twenty years, three fewer than Giggs, retiring from the club twice. He made his debut on the 21 September 1994 at the age of 19, playing his final game on the 19 May 2013, aged 38. Scholes played a total of 718 times, starting 577 and appearing as a substitute 141 times, scoring 155 goals and 73 assists, playing more than 51,000 minutes of football.

Scholes was a great player for United and played with the liked of Roy Keane, Rooney, Giggs, Ronaldo, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, amongst others. He played against some of the greatest footballers of European and World football, many of whom praised the player as being one of the greatest ever midfielders.

Scholes did not achieve as much as Giggs at the club, ending his career at the same time as legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. He won 11 Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, five Community Shields, two Champions Leagues, one Intercontinental Cup and one Club World Cup. A true legend of the game, just like Giggs and Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘had enough’ at Manchester United before leaving for Real Madrid, says Nani

Cristiano Ronaldo talked openly about leaving Manchester United and signing for Real Madrid before his transfer actually happened, stating that he’d ‘had enough’. It was the summer of 2009 when the Portuguese winger finally left United, months after seeing United picked apart by Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final in Rome.

United managed to get £80 million for Ronaldo 11 years ago, which was a world record transfer at the time, which is now joint eighth in the world transfer listings. Ronaldo’s former teammate and housemate at United, Nani, has now suggested that his compatriot made no secret of his desire to leave the Old Trafford club for the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was reported at the time that Ronaldo wanted to leave the Theatre of Dreams in the summer of 2008, just after United had won the Champions League on Moscow, beating Chelsea on penalties. However, Sir Alex Ferguson managed to convince the player to remain at the club for another season, leaving the following summer, which happened.

Nani, now at MLS side Orlando City, has been speaking to his former club about many things, casting a light on the situation with Ronaldo, who is still classed, by some, as a player they would like to see return to the club. Ronaldo is a hot topic for United supporters, a what could have happened moment. Speaking on the UTD Podcast, Nani said:

“We would stay at the end of training to do competitions. [Ronaldo and Anderson] were my teammates, everyone has best friends or some they feel more comfortable with, and they were my support.

“Some days he [Ronaldo] was telling us openly, ‘I’m here six or seven years now, I think it’s enough for me’. But it was always, ‘I will see, I will see’, but we never though it [Real Madrid move] would happen so fast.

“After we won the league in the second year he left, he produced a great season so we were still surprised. You know Cristiano is very competitive and staying in his house for a day means he can challenge you any time.

“He had a swimming pool, tennis court, ping pong table. Every time there was a discussion about who was right or better, the only time we were not playing was at night.

“We were sitting on the sofa talking and Cristiano disappears but we learn that because me and Anderson in the morning we were always tired.

“But Cristiano was already up two hours earlier. It was fantastic moments and great memories we had.”

It was a massive loss for United when Ronaldo left the club. It was going to happen at some time as Real Madrid were actively tracking the player and his promise to his father, that he would play for Los Blancos meant more to him than playing for United did. There was even reports in the summer fo 2013 that Ronaldo would re-sign for United.

United replaced Ronaldo with Gabriel Obertan, who was a dreadful player for the club and Michael Owen, signing as a free agent, took his shirt number. It never really worked out for United, Obertan nor Owen at United as Ronaldo’s boots were big to fill. They still have not been filled at the club, which is a massive shame, considering he’s still playing today.

Since Ronaldo left the club, the number seven shirt has been somewhat of a disaster with Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay and Alexis Sanchez have all worn the number – none of them have sparkled whilst wearing it, something Ronaldo did all of the time. United could have a big future with that shirt number though.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the current United manager, influenced by Ferguson in a way, based on his training as a manager, which started before Ronaldo left the club with Solskjaer injured, is seeking to return United to the pinnacle of English and European football. A player that would make the number seven shirt sparkle again is Jadon Sancho.

Over the years Manchester United has signed many players from Portuguese clubs; Bruno Fernandes could be the new star of Old Trafford

At the end of January 2020, Bruno Fernandes became the sixth Portuguese player to sign for Manchester United and the seventh to sign from the Portuguese Liga NOS. United not only hold close relationships with clubs from Portugal in terms of transfers but also in terms of historic matches.

In 2003, United visited Fernandes’ old club Sporting Clube de Portugal, for a friendly match at the Jose Alvalade Stadium, built for the European Championships hosted in Portugal the next summer. It was here that Alex Ferguson found his next star in Cristiano Ronaldo, who as a skinny 18-year-old tore John O’Shea apart. It was almost a farewell match for Ronaldo, similar to what Fernandes has been experiencing with Sporting’s fans, who for weeks have seemed inclined to lose him to a European powerhouse just as they were with Ronaldo 17 years ago.

“We were on the bus for ages afterwards waiting for the chief executive David Gill and the boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

“We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo.” 

– Rio Ferdinand on facing Ronaldo at Sporting.

Whether Fernandes will have a similar impact at United as Ronaldo is doubtful, but he will hope to avoid the injury woes of the recently departed Argentine Marcos Rojo and the inconsistency of Nani. Nani was another hot talent, tipped as the ‘next Ronaldo’ and that expectation weighted heavily. Spectacular goals and spectacular celebrations were frequent in his seven years at the club but he never hit the heights expected regularly. Nani returned to face Sporting a few months after joining United, for the first match on the club’s road to glory in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Before that meeting, United had not played Sporting since the 1960s in the old Cup Winner’s Cup. The Portuguese team that United have most history with is actually Sporting’s great Lisbon rivals Benfica. The first ever meeting occurred in 1966, when George Best starred, scoring twice in a 5-1 away success. Two years later United became the first English team to win the European Cup with a 4-1 victory over Benfica at Wembley, against a team featuring the late great Eusebio. During the game Eusebio stood and applauded goalkeeping legend Alex Stepney for saving one of his shots.

“I saw it on telly afterwards and what had happened was that Eusebio had stood there applauding. Well, that’s the kind of man he was: the respect he gave to me and to football was tremendous.”

– Stepney speaking about the moment after Eusebio passed away in 2014.

After the 1960s United did not face Benfica again until being draw against the Eagles in the Champions League group stages two years in a row in 2005 and 2006, as well as later group stage matches in 2011 and 2017. Interestingly, Benfica were in two of only four groups that United have been knocked out of since the format began in 1994. There isn’t much transfer history between the two, with United only signing Swedish centre half Victor Lindelöf, and Benfica taking two Old Trafford flops in Bebe and Karel Poborsky.

Despite not having much of a relationship in the market, United always seem to be linked with Benfica players. Mention the names of Nicolas Gaitan and Ezequiel Garay to any United fan and they will probably still be convinced they will rock up in Manchester one day with how much constant speculation surrounded them. Renato Sanches and Joao Felix were two wonderkids who in recent years were heavily linked before making big moves to Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid respectively. There are notable former United players who do have ties however, such as Nemanja Matic and Angel Di Maria.

Besides the two Lisbon clubs, United have had run ins with Porto in Europe, a 4-0 win in 1997 was one of the finest European nights at Old Trafford while a 1-1 draw in 2004 which infamously saw future manager Jose Mourinho sprint down the touchline, knocked United out at the Round of 16 stage. An even quarter-final tie in 2009 was settled by a Ronaldo thunderbolt on United’s last visit to the Estadio do Dragao. In terms of transfers, as recently as 2018 United signed youngster Diogo Dalot while in 2007 Anderson joined on the same day as Nani in a double swoop.

Outside the big three, the only other Portuguese teams United have faced are Bovista in 2001/02 and Braga in 2012/13. United have a mixed history against Portugal’s powerhouses, both in terms of results and in terms of transfer record, but all United fans will hope Bruno Fernandes from Sporting can be the next Ronaldo and not the next Rojo.

copyright: JW