Man Utd fans snap up Ronaldo shirts at Old Trafford
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Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson told Sam Allardyce that Cristiano Ronaldo was destined to be a superstar before he tore Bolton apart on his first debut for the club in 2003. The Portugal international is primed to make his second bow against Newcastle today. And fans are eagerly-anticipating his sensational homecoming.
Manchester United are expected to go strong for today’s visit to Newcastle.
David De Gea is set to start in goal, in front of a back four involving Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.
In midfield, it’s likely Nemanja Matic will act as an anchorman with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba then playing further ahead.
And, up top, United are set to start Ronaldo with Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood either side of him.
For many, Ronaldo’s return is the biggest story of the day.
And, ahead of his second debut, people involved in his first appearance back in 2003 have spoken to The Athletic.
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Amongst them is former Bolton boss Allardyce, who revealed Ferguson tipped Ronaldo to reach the very top during a private conversation before the forward was actually unleashed.
“I’d had a cup of tea with Sir Alex before the game in his office and he said, ‘This lad, he’s good,’” he said.
“We’d heard he’d signed for quite a lot of money for a youngster in his teens.
“They’d played in Portugal in a pre-season friendly and though he was on the radar, that clinched it for Sir Alex.
“It wasn’t a steal at the time. A lad that age at £12 million was big money.
“Of course, we saw him come on as a sub. It wasn’t pleasant. The memories are of a player who came on and made a massive difference to United on the day.”
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Nicky Butt made way for Ronaldo that day.
And he also opened up on the 36-year-old, saying: “When he came on and started running at people, we’d seen that in training; his ability to dribble, little skills, techniques to get away from people.
“He was told to move the ball a bit quicker because he was gonna get hacked down.
“That was all a learning phase for him — knowing when to move the ball, when to dribble. You get that with age.
“But no matter how many times he got kicked, he never ever wavered. He never stopped taking people on.
“A full-back in a training game might kick him seven or eight times in 15 minutes and he’d still run at you the next time. It was embedded in him. He was strong-minded, strong-willed, super talented.
“When you’re a young player or just signed, you get tested; for your personality, for your touch, for your aggression. It is not like a purposeful thing.
“The manager isn’t saying, ‘Go give him a kick or make sure he’s not a loner’. It is just what we did.
“Every great team, no matter what sport, you test each other in different ways. You become closer by doing that.
“Cristiano was tested. ‘Can you take a few kicks? Because you’ll get them a lot worse than what we do in training’. You’re trying to help him.
“He was a bit lightweight back then. He needed to fill into his body but his potential was all there to see.”
Ryan Giggs, furthermore, thinks Ronaldo ‘never cared’ about his early education into English football.
“He was sometimes going down easily, even in training,” he said.
“But the penny dropped pretty quickly with him, he realised he wasn’t going to get away with it.
“He had the likes of Scholesy after him in training. He toughened up and he never shirked a challenge.
“In that first season, I remember getting told off by Sir Alex. It was an eight vs eight and they could be quite feisty.
“I was coming across from the middle and Cristiano was running down the left wing, I perfectly timed a slide tackle and he’s gone flying. It was probably a little bit too much for training but one that was quite regular.
“I remember the gaffer awarding a free kick and giving me a bollocking. I turned around and said, ‘What are you going on about? Great tackle’.
“He could see in my eyes, he knew it was a good tackle but he got me and said, ‘Just be careful’.
“But the point is he wasn’t rolling about, Ronnie. He didn’t care. ‘Give me the ball’.”
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