MANCHESTER UNITED were ‘torn apart’ as an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo ran the show for Sporting Lisbon.
Six days later, Ronaldo officially became a United player.
It was supposed to be a routine pre-season friendly in August 2003 to celebrate the opening of the new Jose Alvalade Stadium.
But centre-back Rio Ferdinand told SunSport years later that Ron pulled them apart so much in the 3-1 defeat, the squad begged Alex Ferguson to sign him.
Ferdinand said: “We were on the bus for ages afterwards waiting for the boss [Ferguson] and chief executive [Peter Kenyon].
“We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo. Within a week he was our player.”
Ronaldo danced around the freshly-laid surface leaving defenders in his shadow – he was flashy, even appearing nonchalant at times.
His attitude was no different to the Portuguese superstar who scored his 140th Champions League goal to send his side through the group stage in November.
In his autobiography, Ferguson wrote that John O’Shea “ended up with a migraine” when the Irishman was trying to mark him at left-back.
And the Scot boss told his kit man to go up to the directors’ box and get Peter Kenyon down at half-time.
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Fergie recalls adding: “We’re not leaving this ground until we’ve got that boy signed”.
Ferdinand’s central defensive partner that evening, former French international Mikael Silvestre claimed: “It was an incredible performance that night.
“This kid nobody knew tore us apart for the whole game.
“No one could get near him, he was amazing.
“At the start, no one had even heard of Ronaldo, but by the end, everyone knew about him.”
Almost 19 years later, fans are left wondering if they’ve seen Ron in a red shirt for the final time.
The Portugal captain is desperate to leave Man Utd this summer and play at the top level of Europe again.
The forward still has one year remaining on his Old Trafford contract but is yet to return for pre-season training with the Red Devils.
Speaking about that fateful game back in 2003, the Portugal captain told Sky Sports that it was a “dream” for the kid to line up against the Old Trafford giants.
He said: “It was important for me because I watched Man Utd everytime they were on TV.
“I remember before the game I didn’t sleep very well. I was excited for the game. It was a special day for me. At 18-years-old, it was a dream for me to play against Man Utd.
“I played 90 minutes and I played well.
“After the game I spoke with my agent and he told me of the interest in me. They brought me to England to show me the academy and of course I said: ‘yes'”.