On this day in 2003, Cristiano Ronaldo dazzled Man United as a Sporting Lisbon player


From a fresh-faced, skinny teenager to the best player in the world.

The rise of Cristiano Ronaldo is an incredible story.

He became known during his youth career at Sporting Lisbon, where a friendly against Manchester United in 2003 propelled him into the spotlight.

It was August 6, 2003 - 17 years ago today - and Ronaldo ran Man United ragged.

“You see Ronaldo get the ball, and you see him turn John O'Shea inside out, and you're having a little giggle to yourself,” former United midfielder Ryan Giggs said in 2016, per Goal.

“He just lit up the game, all the lads were talking to him after the game and I remember we were waiting on the coach and everybody was wondering what we were waiting for.”

Man United players didn’t wait long before pleading with Sir Alex Ferguson to snap up the young teenager who had ran the show.

“We were on the bus afterwards waiting for chief executive David Gill and the boss Alex Ferguson,” Rio Ferdinand told The Sun.

"We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo. Within a week he was our player.”


It’s hard to think of too many individual performances that convince a club to sign a player, but Ronaldo delivered on his audition.

His highlights from the match, which Sporting won 3-1, show just why United’s teammates were so desperate to land Ronaldo.

Mikael Silvestre will never forget Ronaldo's performance.

"It was an incredible performance to watch that night," he told Bleacher Report in 2017.

"This kid nobody knew tore us apart for the whole game. No one could get near him; he was amazing.

"At the start, no one had even heard of Ronaldo, but by the end, everyone knew about him."


Six days after that performance, Ronaldo officially became a Man United player.

He went on to score 118 goals and win the Ballon d'Or during his career at Old Trafford, establishing himself as a club legend.

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