AC Milan‘s team of 2005 was quite extraordinary.
The Italian outfit possessed a plethora of superstars and it took a superhuman-like second half performance from Liverpool to stop them from winning that year’s Champions League.
Milan were scarily strong in every single department, especially in defence.
At the back for the Rossoneri, Cafu, Alessandro Nesta and Jaap Stam were marshalled by the legendary Paolo Maldini and it’s hard to think of many better defensive quartets in history.
All four were the definition of world-class in 2005 and poor ol’ Manchester United found that out the hard way.
The Red Devils came up against Milan in the first knockout round of the 2004/05 Champions League and they were comfortably beaten 2-0 on aggregate.
A goal from Hernan Crespo in each leg secured progress for the Serie A side and United never really looked like scoring across the 180 minutes of action.
That was certainly the case during the second leg at San Siro and the battle that summed up Milan’s dominance was Maldini versus a 20-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar was an explosive right-winger at the time and was expected to give Maldini a stern test.
But a 36-year-old Maldini had other ideas.
The Italian icon opted to embody the cliche ‘age is just a number’ and dropped a pragmatic masterclass.
Ronaldo and his box of tricks simply had no answer to Maldini’s experience, footballing intelligence, athleticism and once-in-a-lifetime quality, as you’ll see in the superb video compilation below.
Video: Maldini bossing a 20-year-old Ronaldo
It’s tough for a defender to make the sport look beautiful given the nature of their responsibilities, but Maldini was able to do just that.
Clean tackles, elite-level positioning and even a spectacular bicycle kick clearance, it was a performance that had it all from ‘Il Capitano’.
Ronaldo joined a lengthy list of players to be bossed by Maldini, although that’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
The United man’s career since the night he was made to look distinctly average in Milan has been even better than Maldini’s overall, which really is saying something.
And the fact Ronaldo is still going strong all these years later is proof that his longevity is on a par with the Italian’s as well.