Goal of the Day: R is for... Ronaldo
Our A-Z Goal of the Day series reaches the alphabet's 18th letter today, and 'R' is for Ronaldo.
Arguably the most famous footballer in the world today, Cristiano Ronaldo is the club's most recent Ballon d'Or winner, and played 292 times for the Reds in six memorable seasons between 2003 and 2009.
Initially renowned for his incredibly quick feet and skill on the ball, Ronaldo blossomed into an incredible goalscorer during his time in M16, and was a key figure behind our three consecutive Premier League titles between 2007-2009 and the 2008 Champions League win in Moscow.
His very first strike, against Portsmouth in 2003, is today's Goal of the Day, which you can enjoy again below...
Ronaldo arrived in Manchester as an 18-year-old in the summer of 2003, shortly after David Beckham had left to join Real Madrid. The Portuguese had impressed in a pre-season friendly between United and his then club Sporting Lisbon, in which he had made a big impression on several of Sir Alex Ferguson's first-team squad by tormenting the unfortunate John O'Shea. A £12million deal was concluded soon afterwards, making Ronaldo the most expensive teenager in British football at the time.
Where to start? Ronaldo scored some of the greatest goals in United's recent history during his final three seasons at the club, and provided countless unique moments. But perhaps his best effort came against Porto in the quarter-final of the 2009 Champions League, when he spanked home a ridiculous 40-yard rocket to send the Reds into the semi-finals. That said, however, he arguably topped that in the next round against Arsenal, by powering home a long-range free-kick and capping a legendary counterattack to send United into a second consecutive Champions League final. So who knows? We'll stick with that goal in Oporto, or else we could be here all day...
Ronaldo came on for the final 30 minutes of the opening game of the 2003/04 Premier League season against Bolton, and immediately had tongues wagging after a sensational one-man assault on the Trotters' defence. But his first three seasons were characterised by a search for maturity, and delivered a relatively modest 27 goals in total. There was little hint of the goal-plundering machine he would become. But upon returning from the 2006 World Cup, he hit the ground running. To be frank, he's barely stopped in the 14 years or so since. His final three campaigns with United brought a remarkable 91 goals, as he helped Sir Alex's side to win three Premier League titles, one Champions League crown and the FIFA Club World Cup. He left to join Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 for a then world-record transfer fee.
Ronaldo spent nine incredible seasons at the Bernabeu, netting a preposterous 450 goals in just 438 games to become Los Blancos' leading goalscorer of all-time. He would help them to four Champions League titles, though Barcelona continued to dominate La Liga (Ronaldo would claim just two domestic Spanish titles during his time in the Spanish capital). He moved to Italy, and Juventus, in the summer of 2018, claiming the Serie A title in his first term with the Turin side. Ronaldo has also proven inspirational at international level, driving Portugal to success at the 2016 Euros and in the inaugural edition of the Nations League.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Cristiano was the most gifted player I managed. He surpassed all the other great ones I coached at United – and I had many. The only ones who could be placed near him would be a couple of the home-produced players, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, because they contributed so prodigiously to Manchester United for two decades."(Sir Alex Ferguson)
"You could never see him being one of the greatest goalscorers ever – you just couldn’t. In his first game against Bolton he delighted the crowd and then it was a little bit of a dip really, a little bit of frustration. He has evolved his game from being out wide, beating players and frustrating centre-forwards with all his step overs to someone who is just so effective." (Ryan Giggs)