Ronaldo earned standing ovation from Manchester United fans in 2003

  • Rob Swan

Manchester United fans have witnessed some sensational performances from opposition players at Old Trafford over the years – but Brazilian Ronaldo produced arguably the best display of the lot back in April 2003.

United registered a 4-3 victory over the Spanish giants but Ronaldo Nazario was the undisputed star of the show.

The legendary striker netted a stunning hat-trick to send Madrid through to the Champions League semi-finals.

Madrid, 3-1 up from the first leg, took the lead in the 12th minute when Ronaldo lashed the ball past Fabien Barthez.

Ruud van Nistelrooy pulled a goal back for the Red Devils on the stroke of half-time but Ronaldo netted his second of the night with a close-range finish, following excellent work between Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos, shortly after the break.

Ivan Helguera’s own goal gave Sir Alex Ferguson’s side hope but Ronaldo effectively killed the game on the hour-mark with a magnificent 25-yard strike.


Ronaldo, winner of the 2002 Ballon d’Or, received an incredibly rare standing ovation from the United fans after he was subbed off for Santiago Solari in the 67th minute.

David Beckham, who was controversially named among the subs by Ferguson, made things interesting by scoring two goals after replacing Juan Sebastian Veron with 25 minutes remaining.

But Madrid held on to book their place in the semi-finals.

Watch Ronaldo’s incredible highlights from that unforgettable Champions League encounter here…

What a player. There’s no doubt that Ronaldo is one of the best strikers in football history.

Just imagine how good El Fenomeno would have been without those career-threatening knee injuries.

He’d almost certainly be in contention for GOAT status.


Rio Ferdinand, who was given the runaround by Ronaldo that night, analysed the South American’s hat-trick for BT Sport a couple of years ago.

Ferdinand admits he didn’t get any sleep after the game but added: “Ronaldo, a pleasure to be on the same pitch as the great man. The opposing striker is getting a standing ovation at our home ground… unheard of!”

Ronaldo went on to score again in the semi-finals against Juventus but a 3-1 defeat in Turin saw Vicente del Bosque’s side fail to reach that season’s Champions League final.

Juve and AC Milan competed in the final, which took place at Old Trafford, and it was the Rossoneri who lifted the European Cup after a 3-2 victory in the penalty shoot-out.

(Credit: The Football Terrace)

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