Culture: September 16, 2021

He arrived as the most highly touted youngster in world football and left as the most expensive player of all time, along the way becoming a key part in one of the most dynamic and exciting attacks the Premier League has ever seen.

It’s fair to say Ronaldo’s first spell at Manchester United was a hell of a ride, from flicks and tricks that dazzled the Old Trafford faithful to genuinely historic performances that helped lift United to new heights, he may not have been as outrageously prolific in front of goal as he would become but on his day - and there were many -  he was absolutely electric  

To celebrate the Portuguese magicians  return to Manchester we’ve compiled 10 of the best goals, skills and assists from his first six years in Manchester. 


Free kick vs Portsmouth - 07/08



Having opened the scoring for United just three minutes earlier, Ronaldo proceeded to hit a contender for the greatest Premier League free kick ever when he lashed at the ball from 25 yards and sent it swirling into David James’ top corner. 


Swift footed time wasting vs Arsenal - 07/08



Having scored one of the two goals that saw United going into extra time against Arsenal with a lead, Ronaldo took it to the corner as only Ronaldo could - or at least would - entrancing Arsenal defender Justin Hoyte with about 15 step overs in five seconds before getting felled for a game killing free kick.


Winning the first Puskas vs Porto - 2008/09



After just six minutes of enduring the boos and whistles of his boyhood clubs great rivals, Ronaldo silenced the Dragão with a 40 yard rocket that traveller a reported 64 miles per hour and would go on to win the inaugural Puskas award. 


Incisive pass to Rooney against City - 06/07



Wayne Rooney was wheeling away in celebration just five minutes into his sides December 06 clash with rivals City thanks to a pinpoint low cross from Ronaldo that narrowly evaded two outstretched legs as it fell perfectly into Rooney’s path.


Brave header vs Roma - 07/08



While his most important Champions League headed would be saved for the 2008 final, his best was undoubtably this magnificent and not a little brave effort against Roma in that seasons quarter finals.


Backheel assist vs Villa - 07/08 



Did Ronaldo know exactly where Rooney was? Probably not. But his deft touch ensured he guided the ball to exactly where it needed to be and the resulting pass was one of the aesthetically pleasing the Prem has seen. It was his second of three assists provided during the game and remains a serious feat of technique. Plus he’d opened the scoring with a back heel goal


Two fantastic goals vs Arsenal - 08/09



While not exactly per se, it would be remiss to talk about one of his two goals against Arsenal in May 2009 and not the other. The first was an outrageous free kick hit from 35 yards while the second was one of the finest team goals United have scored this century. Truly Ronaldo at his outrageous peak. 


Left footed rocket against Pompey - 05/06 



A goal that has perhaps been a little lost among all the hits that we’ve grown used to seeing when remembering Ronaldo’s initial spell at United, his rocket against Pompey was up there with any of them. It’s hard to overstate how well a ball has to be struck to beat a premier league and international goalkeeper down the middle of his goal, with your weaker foot. Ronaldo made it look routine.


One two with Tevez vs Birmingham - 07/08



While it was with Wayne Rooney that Ronaldo developed an almost telepathic understanding, it would be his partnership with Carlos Tevez proved to be almost as fruitful during the sides rampant 07/08 season. There combination play to scythe through the Birmingham defence a particular stand out. 


Leaving Ashley Cole on his backside - 03/04



It’s fair to say that sitting England’s greatest ever left back on his arse while playing in your first season in the Prem is a pretty good way of introducing yourself. Cole was still young at the time himself but had firmly established his place in a great Arsenal side and would just a year later be named in the team of the tournament at Euro 2004. 18 year old Ronaldo made him look absolutely ordinary.


Words by Andy Gallagher


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