Why CR7's debut gave Sir Alex 'a big problem'

Friday 17 December 2021 16:00

Sir Alex Ferguson has recalled how Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing Manchester United debut in 2003 gave him “a big problem”.

The pair have been reunited for a new exclusive chat, in a collaboration with the club’s principal partner TeamViewer.

And in a warm and wide-ranging discussion, they quickly came to talking about the Portuguese’s incredible first showing in a Reds shirt  – a dramatic substitute appearance against Bolton Wanderers at the start of the 2003/04 season.

Sir Alex admitted that Ronaldo’s 30-minute cameo was so impressive, it caught him off guard and gave him a huge selection issue for the next game.
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“I always remember,that when we had the discussion [about Ronaldo signing for United], I think the thing I wanted to impress on his agent, in particular, [was that] he won't play every game,” explained Sir Alex.
“But if he's so good, I can't stop him, [because] you always play your best players.
“The opening game of the season, he was substitute. He came on and he was absolutely bloody fantastic! The crowd was magnificent; the crowd loved it!
“So here we had a situation: do I play him the next game or do I put him back on the bench? That was a big problem, that, you know?!”
The Reds had been leading 1-0 when Ronaldo entered the pitch, but ended up thrashing Bolton 4-0, largely thanks to the huge impetus that our new no.7 had provided.

But Sir Alex stayed true to his word and again named our new signing among the subs for the next game – a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.

The teenager would not get his first start for the club until 27 August – 11 days after the razzmatazz opening.
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“With any boy coming from another country at 18 years of age – I think he was the youngest we ever did that with – I think having a family around you is really important,” the former boss went on.
“I think his mother stayed for quite a bit. I know she was used to the move he made from Madeira to Lisbon when he was a young kid. But coming to another country where the language is different is a big step for a young person. So the club did really well [with that].”
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As for Ronaldo, he puts his fine start to life at United down to his manager’s clear communication, and the fact that the Scotsman always honoured his promises.
“Everything that he said to me, he did,” said the 37-year-old. “And it's difficult. Imagine at 18, you arrive from Sporting, you play with the stars – with Giggsy, Scholes, Roy Keane, Solskjaer – I was a little bit nervous. But he helped me a lot by the communication.
“He would call me to his office with the translator there. The most important thing was he told me things that helped me to grow up as a person, and as a player. And since day one, everything that he told me, he did. So I appreciated it a lot.
“I'm always saying it, but he was like a father figure to me in football. I appreciate everything he did for me, my family and especially for the club. He did an amazing job.”