Back in 2003, Manchester United fans only really knew Cristiano Ronaldo was a talent thanks to the famous pre-season friendly against Sporting Lisbon.
Ronaldo ran John O’Shea ragged in Portugal. Man Utd’s players, so the story goes, pleaded with Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the skillful teenager on the plane journey back home.
Just days after that friendly – which United lost 3-1 – Ronaldo was announced as a United player after completing his £12.24 million move from Sporting.
In the process, the teenage Cristiano became the first ever Portuguese player to play for the Red Devils.
“He is one of the most exciting young players I’ve ever seen,” Ferguson said after the transfer was finalised.
He was scintillating on his debut against Bolton in August 2003. Ronaldo came off the bench in the second half and terrorised Sam Allardyce’s men at Old Trafford.
The starlet lit up various Premier League grounds in his debut season with his array of fancy tricks and flicks, but his end product left a lot to be desired at the time.
In truth, the 18/19-year-old Ronaldo could often be frustrating to watch for fans, and even more frustrating to play with for his teammates.
At times he was almost too unpredictable and seemed to care more about embarrassing his opponents than scoring goals or providing assists.
In his first season at United, Ronaldo scored six goals in 40 appearances. It was far from certain back then that Ronaldo would go on to become one of the greatest footballers we’ve ever seen.
But his talent was patently clear for everyone to see.
And despite his inconsistent performances, he still produced the odd Man of the Match display.
After one Man of the Match performance, Ronaldo conducted his first ever English interview – and, well, let’s just say it was a bit of a struggle for the lad.
Pressured into appearing live in front of the cameras by Gary Neville, Ronaldo managed to say: “Yeah, it’s a good game – good performance. Team win, it’s important.”
A good start, but then things quickly broke down when the interviewer asked Cristiano if he was feeling confident.
Ronaldo didn’t understand the question and Neville turned out to be no help whatsoever.
“Are you confident?” Neville repeated.
As Neville continued talking on Ronaldo’s behalf, the future superstar took his champagne and made a quick exit while the interview was ongoing.
Watch the interview in full here…
It shows how far Ronaldo has come over the past 17 years.
Back then he was surprisingly timid in front of the camera, with only a basic grasp of the English language.
Within the space of a few short years, though, his English skills had improved ten-fold.
He also went on to become one of the most confident interviewees in football, appearing on major talk shows across the world.
Those who watched this interview live would have needed a crystal ball to predict that.
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