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Cristiano Ronaldo has fulfilled Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘mission’ after ‘terrible’ statement

ON THIS DAY: Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first ever Manchester United goal in November 2003, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson insisted it had been a long time coming

There have been plenty of discussions about the end of Cristiano Ronaldo ‘s Manchester United career in recent weeks, but you can’t have an end without a start.

The 37-year-old was back in United’s starting XI on Sunday, playing the full 90 minutes of the 1-0 victory over West Ham at Old Trafford. He wasn’t able to find the net, though, and goes into November with just one Premier League goal to his name this season.

That’s one more than he had at the same stage in 2003-04, his first season on United’s books. However, Ronaldo wasted little time getting off the mark with a goal which United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had seen coming.

 

After 10 games of the 2003-04 season, United were down in third with 22 points. A late Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty miss had denied them victory over Arsenal, while Southampton and a Steed Malbranque-inspired Fulham had both earned victories against the reigning champions.

United were looking to bounce back at home to a Portsmouth side sat in mid-table but still waiting for a first away win since earning promotion to the Premier League. A first-half effort from Diego Forlan put the hosts ahead at Old Trafford, but it wasn’t until a double-change 15 minutes from time that the result was made safe.

Ferguson threw on Ronaldo and Roy Keane for the closing stages, and both were on target. Ronaldo’s was the kind of strike we would see from him again and again, though not always with the same success.

The teenager stood wide-legged preparing to take a free-kick from the left touchline with defenders Rio Ferdinand and John O’Shea ambling forward in anticipation of a cross. Instead, he went for goal, with Pompey keeper Shaka Hislop unable to react quickly enough to keep the ball out of the net.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo impressed in his cameo against Portsmouth

“We brought them [Ronaldo and Keane] on to make sure we would not lose the game,” Ferguson said after the victory. “To consolidate the central midfield area and stretch them in the wide positions, which we did. Ronaldo’s goal has been coming because he has put some terrific balls into the box. He really hits them – he is a tremendous hitter of the dead ball.”

Sure enough, we would see the Ronaldo free-kick stance plenty of times in the years which followed. Including, famously, in another meeting with Portsmouth in 2008 – a goal which Ferguson described as the best free-kick he had ever seen in the Premier League.

 

After the November 2003 victory, Ferguson suggested there was a three-horse race for the title, with United battling unbeaten Arsenal and a Chelsea side benefiting from a first summer of Roman Abramovich’s millions. The Red Devils won eight of their next nine games to sit top in January, but six defeats in the second half of the season – including in the reverse fixture at Portsmouth – saw them slip to third.

Ronaldo scored another more famous free-kick against Portsmouth in 2008

Ronaldo himself only scored three more league goals that season, the last of them coming in a final day victory over Aston Villa which also saw him pick up his first red card in English football. However, he went out on a high with a stunning FA Cup final display before helping Portugal reach the Euro 2004 final on home soil.

“Everyone’s got their ideas about what his potential is but we’ve seen potential in that player better than anything in Europe,” Ferguson said after the cup final victory over Millwall. “What we have to do is to realise that potential.

“He’s got a fantastic personality, great strength of mind and I think those things will help him more than anything. It’s less the coaching, it’s the character that I think he’s got within him that will take him really far in the game.”

Ferguson was spot on, as he was on many other occasions before and after. Ronaldo had to start somewhere for United, though, and that somewhere was the left touchline against Portsmouth in the autumn of 2003.

 

Source: Mirror

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