Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance for Man Utd v Al Hilal in 2008 was ridiculously flash

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo vi

Although Cristiano Ronaldo is an out-and-out goal machine these days - and has been for quite a few years now - it shouldn’t be forgotten just how skilful he used to be.

The Portuguese maestro was all about flashy tricks and flicks when he first joined Man Utd from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003.

Indeed, he used to frustrate some of his teammates - the most notable example being Ruud van Nistelrooy - because he was so unpredictable.

His decision-making also frustrated United fans during the early years of his Old Trafford spell.

However, once the penny finally dropped that end product was more important than flashy skills - around 2006’ish - Ronaldo never looked back.

There was one match in 2008, though, where Ronaldo had the freedom to do basically whatever he wanted.

United took a controversial 6,500-mile round trip to Saudi Arabia for a few days in January 2008 after accepting £1 million to play in a testimonial for Saudi legend Sami Al-Jaber.

They went head-to-head against Al Hilal in front of a 65,000-strong crowd in Riyadh - and Ronaldo pulled out all of his party tricks, much to the delight of the paying spectators.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo ce

A video of Ronaldo’s individual highlights from this bizarre game is available to watch on YouTube.

It’s appropriately titled ‘The day Ronaldo turned the game of football into the circus’ - and it’s a joy to watch.

It was like he was having a kickabout with his mates down the park.

He clearly just wanted to show off and entertain every time he was on the ball.

Despite Ronaldo’s eye-catching performance, though, United lost the match 3-2.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (L

Yasser Al Gahtan beat Edwin van der Sar for the game’s opening goal in the 19th minute before Carlos Tevez equalised shortly afterwards courtesy of a Ronaldo assist.

The game’s star performer then made it 2-1 in the 33rd minute with a glancing header from a Nani corner.

The scores were level at half-time, however, after Al-Jaber was awarded a penalty - a decision so “ludicrously soft it provoked laughter from Fergie,” according to the Mirror’s match report at the time.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Fergu

Mohammed Shalhob spurned the chance to make it 3-2 to the hosts from the penalty spot in the second half, but Bader Al Khoraeshe’s overhead kick did seal the victory against the Red Devils.

Even if United’s trip to Saudi Arabia was motivated by money, at least we all got to witness Ronaldo at his flamboyant best.

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