With his career at a real crossroads, today marks eight years from a momentous occasion in Cristiano Ronaldo's career.
In a resounding 6-0 victory over Newcastle, the Portuguese captain recorded his first and only hat-trick for Manchester United, establishing himself as the goalscoring prodigy who would go on to light up world football.
With United chasing the title against the managerless Magpies, Ronaldo opened the scoring in typically opportunist fashion. Having drawn a foul from former Red Devil Alan Smith, Ronaldo lined up a free-kick just outside the box, left of centre. Anticipating that the Newcastle players would jump, the forward duly slid his shot under the five-man wall.
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Though not the cleanest strike and not in the corner, clearly confused by Ronaldo's trickery, Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given could only get a hand to the strike and couldn't prevent the deadlock being broken.
Twenty minutes later and Ronaldo finished off a flowing move, which showcased the talent of one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest sides. Collecting a slightly overhit through ball from former United striker Carlos Tevez, after neat work from Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo took a touch on his left foot to gather the ball expertly, without breaking stride, and duly slid the ball across the onrushing Given and into the far corner.
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Throughout United's three consecutive Premier League title winning seasons ending in 2009, United built a reputation as a formidable counter-attacking side both domestically and in Europe. Though this goal may not have compared with Ronaldo's strike a year later against Arsenal in the Champions League semi-final, it clearly demonstrated how difficult United were to contain at that time.
The hat-trick was subsequently sealed in rather less convincing fashion: gathering the ball from a misplaced Luis Enrique header from John O'Shea's cross, Ronaldo jinxed sharply onto his left foot past the sliding Steven Taylor. Setting himself, the deadly finisher then lashed a powerful shot off his left foot, that beat Given via a significant deflection to make the score 5-0, with more misery to come for the Irish keeper.
Becoming the world's best player
Since that hat-trick, Ronaldo's career has gone from strength to strength.
Having scored United's goal in their Champions League final victory over Chelsea in May - a bullet header from a Wes Brown cross - Ronaldo would go on to claim his first of three Ballon d'Ors later that year, after amassing an incredible 42 goals for his club.
An inevitable record-breaking move to Real Madrid followed suit in the summer of 2009 and despite his enormous £80 million fee, Ronaldo has proved to be worth every penny of president Florentino Perez's investment: he recently broke club legend Raul's scoring record and has amassed an incredible 338 goals in just 324 games for Los Blancos.
Amidst that mountain of goals Ronaldo has defied all reason by scoring 34 hat-tricks for Real Madrid, in just six and a half seasons. In that period against a dominant Barcelona side and Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo has been vital in Madrid claiming the 2011 league title and most important of all, the much feted 'La Decima' in 2013.
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