John O’Shea had the unenviable task of going up against Cristiano Ronaldo when Manchester United played Sporting Lisbon in 2003.
Aided by the youthful exuberance of an 18-year-old, Ronaldo tore O’Shea to shreds. So much so that Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand both claimed in their respective autobiographies that the Irishman needed medical attention.
Keane said O’Shea complained of dizziness while Ferdinand said the defender was given an oxygen mask.
O’Shea’s medical problems didn’t stretch that far, according to Mikael Silvestre, who has revealed that Keane and Ferdinand were “just making fun of John,” but O’Shea’s performance didn’t escape Sir Alex Ferguson.
“[Ronaldo] tore John to shreds in that first half," former United defender Lynch, on the bench at the time, told Bleacher Report.
"I can remember the gaffer shouting, 'Any chance you could get a bit tighter to him, John?' Sheasy just turned to us, shaking his head, and said, 'Er, that's easier said than done!'"
O’Shea’s nightmare was brought to a halt eight minutes into the second half. It was now the turn of Lynch to face the tricky winger.
"Ronaldo struck fear into me,” Lynch, who made one appearance in Man United’s first team, continued.
“You had to watch him so carefully, and at one point, he put the ball through my legs, and all I could do was bring him down.
“They scored their second goal from that free kick. He was unplayable that night."
What O'Shea said to Ronaldo after he signed
Ferguson immediately organised Ronaldo’s signing as soon as the final whistle was blown, leading to the Portugal star’s £12.24 million move to Old Trafford.
It was during a tour of United’s Carrington training ground that Ronaldo bumped into O’Shea.
The teenager couldn’t speak a word of English so it was left to O’Shea to break the ice.
And what better way to welcome the new signing than by joking about the day Ronaldo gave him hell.
"Ronaldo bumped into John O'Shea, and John joked, 'You owe me for getting you this move!', former United player Danny Pugh, now at Port Vale, said.
"It was translated for him, and Ronaldo began laughing a lot.".
It didn’t take long for the winger to make an impact in Manchester.
He produced a stunning display on his debut in a 4-0 win against Bolton Wanderers in what would be the first of many fantastic performances from Ronaldo at Old Trafford.
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