Cristiano Ronaldo makes his Manchester United debut | August 17, 2003
A STAR IS BORN: Ronaldo dazzles in United's 4-0 win
ALL eyes were on Manchester United’s No 7 at Old Trafford yesterday as the new Premiership season thundered into life, but the man in silver boots and scarlet shirt that had until recently been the exclusive property of England’s captain David Beckham was United’s new Portuguese teenager, Cristiano Ronaldo, writes Jim Munro.
The 18-year-old forward made an impressive 29-minute appearance as a second-half substitute during the 4-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers, having joined United from Sporting Lisbon in midweek for £12.2m. Sir Alex Ferguson, not normally one for being over-effusive in his praise, could not contain his enthusiasm after the game.
“It looks like the fans have a new hero,” said Ferguson. “It was a marvellous debut, almost unbelievable. I felt his penetration could make a difference for us.”
It has been a monumental week for the young player as, having completed his move to Old Trafford, he was named in the Portugal squad for the first time for Wednesday’s friendly with Kazakhstan.
“It is a good thing he is going with Portugal,” said Ferguson. “He has the chance to talk with Luis Figo and Rui Costa in his own country and that experience will be invaluable when he comes back to us.”
Bolton manager Sam Allardyce was equally impressed with the teenager’s contribution. “His introduction was crucial,” said Allardyce. “When they provided him with the ball, he was different class. Sir Alex will use him when he is ready but that was 20 or so exceptional minutes.”
Ryan Giggs, the scorer of two of United’s goals, said that Ronaldo reminded him of another of United’s famous No 7s from the past. “When we first saw him play for Sporting Lisbon, he impressed us the same way Eric Cantona did when we played Leeds,” said Giggs. “He is a great prospect and he is going to put on more great performances like he did today. He lifted the crowd and the players and there are not many who can do that.”
Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a penalty but hit United’s fourth and final goal to set a club record for scoring in nine successive League matches.
At Highbury, Arsenal beat Everton 2-1 despite having their England defender Sol Campbell dismissed in the first half for a professional foul.
It was the 51st red card shown to an Arsenal player during Arsène Wenger’s seven-year reign and the central defender will receive an automatic one-match ban for his indiscretion.
Blackburn Rovers ran riot at Ewood Park beating Premiership newcomers Wolves 5-1, while Leicester let a 2-0 lead slip at home to Southampton, the visitors fighting back for a 2-2 draw inspired by a goal from debutant Kevin Phillips.