Cristiano Ronaldo’s introduction to Wayne Rooney and English football in 2003 was brutal

  • Rob Swan

Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo struck up a formidable on-field relationship during their five years together at Manchester United.

The Old Trafford faithful have extremely fond memories of the two superstars ripping teams apart in both the Premier League and the Champions League.

They were devastatingly effective together, particularly on the counter-attack. Most defenders simply couldn’t cope with their pace, power and skill.

Ronaldo was the first to arrive at Man Utd in the summer of 2003, completing a £12 million move to Old Trafford after impressing against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side while playing for Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly.

Rooney signed from Everton one year later after cementing his status as one of world football’s most exciting teenagers at Euro 2004.


Ronaldo could have been forgiven if he felt slightly apprehensive by the news of Rooney’s signing.

Eight months earlier, in December 2003, the two players went head-to-head for the first time at Old Trafford.

United ran out 3-2 winners against Everton thanks to goals from Nicky Butt, Kleberson and David Bellion.

But United fans were left fuming with Rooney after a brutal tackle on his future teammate in the second half.


After receiving the ball on the left touchline, Ronaldo rolled the ball over his foot twice before being scythed down by a bone-crunching challenge.

Watch the footage here…

That was a vicious one from Rooney, whose intentions were clear.

Referee Mike Dean, to the surprise of most inside Old Trafford on that Boxing Day evening, only showed Rooney a yellow card.

Seventeen years later and there’s no doubt that would be a red card challenge today.

Ronaldo was often targeted by opponents during his early years at Man Utd and soon developed a reputation for diving.

But when you see the type of tackles he had to put up with, like Rooney’s, it’s more understandable why he resorted to going to ground easily on occasions.


Ronaldo, to his credit, never allowed such incidents to knock his confidence.

He continued to showcase his skills and improved every season before eventually winning the first of his five Ballon d’Or awards in 2008.

Many players in his shoes would have crumbled during those early months - but as we all know, Cristiano is built differently to most.

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