The unbelievable has happened. Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United after 12 years at Real Madrid and Juventus. The Portuguese forward signed for the English club after a merry-go-round sequence of events unfolded in Manchester as City were initially tipped to land the talismanic forward.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 27, 2021
But then, in stepped the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson to convince Ronaldo to make a stunning return to the Theatre of Dreams as every football fan in the world held their breath with the drama unfolding in Manchester yesterday.
As Ronaldo prepares to begin his second stint at the Red Devils, FootTheBall takes a trip down memory lane to recount some of the Portuguese’s most iconic moments at the Theatre of Dreams.
10) DREAM DEBUT VS. BOLTON WANDERERS
The day of August 16th 2003 will forever be etched in the memories of Manchester United fans as the day when the Cristiano Ronaldo epoch started in the Premier League. The scrawny Portuguese stepped on the pitch and United visibly improved against Bolton Wanderers.
The former Real Madrid player spent only half an hour on the pitch, but during that time he had been involved in winning a penalty for van Nistelrooy, and being involved in the build-up to Giggs’ goal. Sir Alex Ferguson himself christened him by saying that the Old Trafford faithful had received a “hero” in the form of the Portuguese.
9) FREE-KICK VS. PORTSMOUTH
This is probably on the pantheon of the greatest free-kicks of all time. Cristiano Ronaldo gave David James no chance at saving his effort, even though he took the free-kick from a distance of 30 yards.
The ball nestled in the top-right corner of the goal as everybody in the stadium was dumbfounded after witnessing what had happened on the pitch. At that moment, every football fan watching could only stand and applaud the prodigious skill of the Portuguese.
8) JAW-DROPPING GOAL VS. PORTO
In the 2008-09 season Manchester United were bidding to become the first club to win back-to-back Champions League titles and Ronaldo was among the fulcrum of the squad that were leading the charge for the Red Devils.
He lit up the road to Rome with an absolutely outrageous effort in the quarter-final tie against Porto in Portugal. It ultimately won the inaugural FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal as United finished as runners-up in the Champions League.
7) BESTING GEORGE BEST’S RECORD
In March 2008, Ronaldo wore the captain’s armband for Manchester United for the first time and capped this occasion by scoring a brace as United won 2-0 against Bolton Wanderers.
This took his tally to 33 goals for the 2007-08 season as he surpassed George Best’s record for the most number of goals scored by a midfielder for Manchester United, a record that had stood for the last 40 years until that point of time.
6) WINNING THE PREMIER LEAGUE AT THE ETIHAD STADIUM
In May 2007, United won the Premier League title at their fierce rivals Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson in the technical area.
Ronaldo slotted the title-winning penalty at the home of the Sky Blues after being fouled by Michael Ball in the early stages of the match, only to pick himself again after a second foul by the very same defender and score the title-winning goal from 12 yards.
5) TROPHY CLEAN SWEEP
Cristiano Ronaldo ended the 2006-07 season as the hero of the Old Trafford faithful, winning almost everything on offer in England. Apart from the league, the Portuguese won the PFA Player of The Year along with the Young Player of The Year award.
In addition to the above-mentioned awards, he also won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year and FWA’s Player of the Year awards, thereby becoming the first football player to achieve this unique distinction.
4) PREMIER LEAGUE HAT-TRICK VS. NEWCASTLE
Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick against Newcastle United in January 2008 as United were on their way towards yet another Premier League title in England.
The Portuguese brought joy and glee to the faces of Manchester United fans when he netted a trio of goals against the Magpies, securing a result that sent Manchester United top of the Premier League.
3) LIGHTNING-FAST COUNTER-ATTACK IN LONDON
Ronaldo scored a brace for United against Arsenal in London in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg as the Red Devils cruised towards the final in Rome. Of particular note was the Portuguese’s goal in the 61st minute when Arsenal were seemingly on the front foot.
The former Sporting Lisbon player started and ended the lightning-fast counter-attack in the British capital as United ran out 3-1 winners on the night (4-1 on aggregate) to book their tickets for the Italian capital at the end of May.
2) WINNING THE BALLON D’OR IN 2008
This is the year when the now-famous Messi-Ronaldo duopoly began for the Ballon d’Or as the Portuguese won the accolade for his performances for United throughout the year 2008.
He became the first Manchester United player to win the accolade since George Best had done it 40 years ago for the Red Devils.
1) WINNING THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IN 2008
In the summer of 2008, Ronaldo was living the stuff that dreams are made of as United won the prestigious Champions League, beating fellow English club Chelsea in Moscow.
It was the Portuguese who broke the deadlock that night in Russia as United took the lead a little before half an hour in Moscow.
Frank Lampard did equalise towards the end of the first half at the Luzhniki Stadium, but ultimately it was the night of Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges as they ran out winners in Moscow on penalties.
This was the crowning moment of what is considered to be by some the best-ever club team of all time. Manchester United won against Chelsea on penalties. Ronaldo scored for the Red Devils, though he missed his penalty during the shootout.
But, it didn’t come to haunt him back as John Terry’s slip at the eleventh hour handed the European Cup to Manchester United bringing a spectacular season to a fitting conclusion for the Red Devils, both in England and Europe.