Bardsley: How Ronaldo and I made each other bleed
Former Manchester United defender Phil Bardsley remembers the time he spent with Cristiano Ronaldo fondly and is excited that our no.7 is back at Old Trafford.
The current Burnley full-back is the latest guest on the UTD Podcast and during his episode he shares some great stories from his time at United. The episode is now available to listen to in the club's Official App and on other podcast streaming platforms.
The Academy graduate made his debut for the first team in 2003 before going out on loan several times ahead of leaving the club in 2008, having played 18 times for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Speaking to UTD Podcast presenters Sam Homewood, Helen Evans and ex-Red David May, Bardsley talks about his debut, when he lined up behind Cristiano Ronaldo on the right.
"I made my debut at 18 at West Brom," he said about his first start in 2003.
"We lost 2-0 which was disappointing, but I actually had a decent enough game. Ronaldo was in front of me, I was so enthusiastic. In the first five minutes, I remember their left-back having the ball in their half and I flew past Ronaldo and just smashed him. Ronaldo turned around and said: ‘what are you doing?’ I was so enthusiastic, I just wanted to make an impression and stuff. He probably thought: ‘who’s this lunatic we’ve brought in.’"
After his debut, Bardo went on loan to Royal Antwerp, Burnley, Rangers, Aston Villa and Sheffield United before leaving for Sunderland in 2008. He then moved to Stoke City in 2014 before signing for his current team, Burnley, three years later.
"We’ve all took our different paths, different ways," Bardsley told us before speaking about his former team-mate Ronaldo again.
"Obviously, for me, leaving United, the most important thing was to forge a career at the highest level which is the Premier League and I’m very proud to say that I’m still playing today in the Premier League. Obviously, Cristiano has gone on to achieve… He’s the greatest. There’s nothing I can say."
Although the duo did not play too many games together, Bardsley and Ronaldo spent hours training alongside each other. The pair even made each other bleed during training sessions, as Bardsley goes on to explain.
"I remember Mick Phelan, Cristiano used to love staying out after training, practising and stuff and Mick Phelan used to stick us together one v one all the time," he said.
"He’d clip a ball in, 25 yards out he tried to dribble past me and score. He’d mostly get past me and score. He’d be dribbling, shooting, he’d cut up my shin. Both used to come in with them white socks on but they were just full of blood. It was so aggressive, so intense. I wouldn’t want him to beat me, he wanted to beat me and score as many as he could. It was another great time sharing the pitch with a true great."
Ronaldo is now back at the Theatre of Dreams for his second spell at the club and the Portuguese superstar has been on fire since his comeback to M16. Bardsley, a United fan, was so excited to see CR7 return to the club in the summer.
"I don’t know if there’s a market for him, really," Bardsley said about the summer’s transfer rumours surrounding Ronaldo.
"With transfers and that, I don’t really know what goes on but the speculation that he was going to join the other half [Manchester City] which… It would’ve been impossible. He couldn’t have gone there. Anywhere else in Europe you’d probably say ‘yeah’ but as soon as United had a sniff of getting him, there was no doubt."
As we all know, Ronaldo made a spectacular reintroduction when he scored a brace against Newcastle United back in September. Bardsley went to see his old team-mate’s blockbuster comeback performance.
"The buzz, the feel, everything he’s brought back with it...
"I took my kids to the Newcastle game and… from what I’ve experienced playing, walking out, the Champions League music, the Premier League games but that was special, when he came back. Whenever he had the ball there were people standing up, taking pictures. After the game, I was sat in the North Stand, he was waving up and I said to my little lad: ‘he’s waving at you there!’ [laughs]. What a beast."