SPORT / MISCELLANY
The second coming
What happened to Ronaldo's teammates from his first United debut?
Published: Sep 09, 2021 11:41 PM
Cristiano Ronaldo  Photo: VCG

Cristiano Ronaldo Photo: VCG


On August 16, 2003, the English Premier League was introduced to a callow Portuguese teenager by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.

The 18-year-old winger had arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon - and if history would have it - because of his standout performance in a preseason game against Manchester United.

As the story goes, the English side's players were so impressed that they urged manager Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the teen prodigy and the coach waited outside the stadium until the deal was done.

The United hierarchy claimed that they had been scouting the player - who was already known as one of Europe's elite talents - long before but whatever the truth, the fact remains that Ronaldo signed for United and was introduced in the second half of their home game against Bolton Wanderers.

Writing in his autobiography a decade on from Ronaldo's debut, Ferguson was clear about the impact that the tricky winger had. "The Bolton defenders ended up in knots," Ferguson wrote.

"The crowd on that side of the ground responded as if a Messiah had materialized right before their eyes."

A young fan wearing the shirt of Cristiano Ronaldo points to Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England on Monday. Photo: VCG

A young fan wearing the shirt of Cristiano Ronaldo points to Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England on Monday. Photo: VCG



Ronaldo would go on to lead the club to a UEFA Champions League win in 2008 and a losing final in 2009, being named as the club's first Ballon d'Or winner since 1968, before moving to Real Madrid.

Now with Ronaldo set to make his second debut for Manchester United as a 36-year-old, a lifetime on from his first taste of Old Trafford as a teenager, what happened to his teammates that day?

Tim Howard

The American goalkeeper never quite settled at Old Trafford but would go on to become a bona fide English Premier League legend when he moved to Everton. Howard, who shone with the US national team on the FIFA World Cup stage, then moved to MLS side Colorado Rapids before dropping down to the Memphis 901 in the USL.

Phil Neville

Now the manager of David Beckham's Inter Miami side in the MLS, Neville was a servant at Old Trafford before leaving for Everton where he would go on to cult status. He was part of his former boss David Moyes' coaching team when the Scot took over from Ferguson before taking a similar role at Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad and managing the England women's national team.

Rio Ferdinand

The former England defender-turned-pundit has claimed to have been pivotal in convincing Ronaldo to pick a return to United over signing for Manchester City. Ferdinand ended his career in 2014 at QPR in his native London before becoming a respected broadcaster.

Mikael Silvestre

France international defender Silvestre moved on to Arsenal, Werder Bremen, MLS side Portland Timbers and the Indian Super League's Chennaiyin FC before hanging up his boots. Briefly took a director of football role at boyhood side Rennes back in France.

Quinton Fortune

The South African would sign for that day's opponents, Bolton, when he finally left United in 2006 after seven years. Spells at Brescia in Italy, Belgium's Tubize-Braine and Doncaster Rovers followed before he became an ambassador for the Old Trafford side and UNICEF, as well as a coach at Reading.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The duo have been reunited at Old Trafford where the Norwegian is the current first-team boss and tasked with finding a way to fit his new superstar into the team. United finished second in the English Premier League and were losing finalists in the ­Europa League last season with Ronaldo expected to take them one step further and deliver the first silverware under Solskjaer. The striker's playing days were cut short by injury.

Roy Keane

The Irishman is another pundit and one who has had his say on Ronaldo's return to United, raving about his former teammate and the effect he could have on the younger players in the current squad. Keane played for Celtic after leaving United before several stints as manager and assistant manager, notably with Sunderland, Ireland and Aston Villa.

Nicky Butt

Ronaldo came on for Butt and a less like for like replacement perhaps has never been seen. Butt would move on to Newcastle United, Birmingham City and Hong Kong side South China before returning to United as part of the academy setup. Butt has since left the club's coaching set-up.

Paul Scholes

The England midfielder would retire in May 2011 only to return in January 2012 and went on to play one more season. Scholes has also turned his hand to punditry when not managing lower-league sides such as Oldham Athletic or Salford City - the team that he co-owns with fellow "Class of '92" members Ryan Giggs, Butt, Beckham and both Neville brothers.

Ryan Giggs

The Welsh winger is the most decorated player in English Premier League history and also managed his only club team as caretaker manager, even playing himself. Left the club after serving as assistant manager under Louis van Gaal, Giggs became Wales boss but is currently out of the dugout as he awaits the verdict on a legal case over the assault of an ex-gilrfriend.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

The Dutch striker and Ronaldo would fall out, with Ferguson shipping Van Nistelrooy off to Real Madrid as he backed his Ballon d'Or winner in the making. The pair were reunited at Real for a time before the Dutchman left and he has gone to be part of the coaching setup with his former national side and at former club PSV.

Diego Forlan

Forlan was a cult figure at United but never quite caught fire in England, unlike after he moved to Spain first with Villarreal and then Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan was named the best player at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa before winding down his career with stops including Kitchee in Hong Kong. Recently managed former club Penarol back home.

Eric Djemba-Djemba

The Cameroonian midfielder is one of football's forgotten men compared to his trophy-laden teammates that day. Left for Aston Villa before a tour of world football clubs that took in Qatar, Indonesia and the French lower leagues before retiring.
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