Manchester United's starting XI when Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut in 2003

The story of how Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004 never gets old.

Ronaldo produced a scintillating performance against United in a friendly for Sporting Lisbon. After watching the 18-year-old, Sir Alex Ferguson knew he couldn’t leave Portugal without him.

“I remember speaking to the manager and saying, ‘Are we going to get this guy? Who is he?,” Rio Ferdinand said last year, per the Mirror.

“He said, ‘Listen, I’m working on it. Don’t worry…’

“We were waiting for one and a half hours after the game. Then the manager comes back in and said, ‘I think I’ve got him.’

“Man United and Sporting Lisbon came together for this game, and we went home with their baby. It was a good trip!”

United legend

Indeed. Ronaldo went on to become one of the finest players in United’s history, scoring 118 goals in six seasons and winning the Premier League title three times.

Ronaldo was aware, when Man United came to play Sporting, that there was an opportunity for him to seal a dream move to England.

“My friend says to me, ‘Cristiano – if you play well against Manchester United, you can go to play there’,” he said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? No, it’s too early. I’m 17!’

“Then that night, I played unbelievable! I played so good!”

Video: Ronaldo vs Man United in 2003

Ronaldo’s impressive debut

It was the first time Ferguson would see a brilliant performance from Ronaldo live in the flesh, and the Scot didn’t have to wait long to see another one.

The Portuguese made his debut in United’s 2003-04 season opener against Bolton Wanderers, coming on as a sub in the 61st minute.

Twenty-nine minutes was enough for Ronaldo to make an impact. He played a part in United’s second goal and continued to shine.

Ronaldo was fortunate enough to be a part of a quality United team that included Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Here’s United’s starting XI from that encounter.

GK | Tim Howard | Colorado Rapids

RB | Phil Neville | Sky Sports and BBC Sports pundit

CB | Rio Ferdinand | BT Sport pundit

CB | Mikael Silvestre | Former Rennes director of football

LB | Quinton Fortune | Retired

RM | Paul Scholes | BT Sport pundit

CM | Roy Keane | Pundit

CM | Nicky Butt | Head of Man United’s academy/interim reserve manager

LM | Ryan Giggs | Former Man United assistant manager

ST | Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | Manager of Molde FK

ST | Ruud van Nistelrooy | Manager of PSV youth team

Video: Ronaldo’s debut vs Bolton

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