Ronaldo's first days: How it started v How it's going
Cristiano Ronaldo experienced his first day at Manchester United for the second time on Tuesday and, although a lot has changed for him between 2003 and 2021, so much remains the same.
Eighteen years on, a club icon returned to the training ground as arguably the greatest player of all time, determined to achieve even more success as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s exciting squad.
The images from Ronaldo’s first session back on Tuesday were enjoyed by millions of Reds supporters around the world and we all marvelled at the sight of Cristiano in his United kit.
Here in the editorial team, we could not help but notice an amazing similarity between the official images from 2003 and 2021, as you can see for yourself in the gallery below…
Then and now: Ronaldo's first days gallery
These images of Cristiano at Carrington in 2003 and 2021 are so similar, yet so different at the same time.
Ronaldo stars on the cover of this Saturday’s United Review, our legendary match programme at Old Trafford, and supporters have been rushing to order the collectors’ edition all week.
Cristiano has previously been the cover star 15 times and, out of curiosity, we delved into the archive to find his first, for a big match against Leeds United on Saturday 21 February 2004.
That edition, of course, included one of Ronny’s first big interviews as a United player and his comments are absolutely fascinating, showing a fearless attitude that has driven his career so far.
At the start of his interview with United Review in 2004, Ronaldo looked back on his memorable debut against Bolton. “When I came on, things started to go well, the fans had a good impression of me and I was delighted with the way I performed,” he told us. “The manager didn't have too many special words for me before I came on. He wished me good luck and that was it, really."
Asked about the fans singing “There’s only one Ronaldo”, Cristiano responded humbly: “I felt very happy about that too, it was a sign the fans have a lot of confidence in me and liked the way I performed. As for what the other Ronaldo thinks of that song, I couldn't say! He has been voted one of the best players in the world many, many times and to follow in his footsteps would be a great honour for me - but there's no comparison really.”
Discussing his adaption to the club and life in England, Ronaldo said: “The players who have helped me out the most are those who speak a language I can understand, like Diego Forlan, Kleberson and Quinton Fortune, because they all speak either Portuguese or Spanish. I'm good friends with Eric Djemba-Djemba - we sit together on the team bus and although we can't speak so much, we are trying to speak English slowly so we can understand each other. There are no problems.”
Discussing his ambitions back then, both short-term and long-term, Ronaldo said: “My major ambition with United is to win the Premiership and, in the future, to win the Champions League.
“It would also be great to make the Portuguese squad for Euro 2004, that's a dream for every Portuguese footballer. It would be such an honour to represent them in our home country.
“It would be intriguing if we met England and I came up against some of my United team-mates. I'm sure it'd be an interesting game if I played against Gary Neville on the wing, but hopefully I'd win the battle between the two of us.”
“When I was very young, I supported Benfica but, as soon as I moved to Sporting, they were my team,” explained Ronaldo, when asked which club he followed as a boy. “I spent seven years there and I'm grateful to the club for everything they did for me, so that's who I support.”
Quizzed on his view of United from afar, he concluded: “Manchester United are a dream team. Any player would love to play for United and, when I watched matches on TV when I was younger, I dreamed of playing here one day.”
For Cristiano, that dream is about come true for the second time.