On that date, Manchester United faced Sporting Lisbon in a friendly. The Red Devils, one of the top clubs in the world, were in need of a star after David Beckham joined Real Madrid to become the last ‘galactico’.
Meanwhile, Sporting Lisbon manager Fernando Santos gave a young Cristiano Ronaldo a place in the starting lineup after Quaresma left for Barcelona. The future star gave two assists as his team won 3-1 and he marvelled Ferguson with his skills.
Years later, the players at Manchester United admitted they were impressed by Ronaldo’s performance. Players such as Gary Neville said they had never heard of this youngster, but they told the manager he had to be signed. That was the conversation topic of their return trip to Manchester.
Sir Alex needed a No 7 who could live up to the standard set by Cantona or Beckham. Following that fixture, he stated he had already found one: ‘the other Ronaldo’ was the star his team needed.
The Scottish manager, unlike his footballers, had heard about Cristiano. He was one of his targets, as Neville revealed: ‘He never would have signed him because of ninety minutes in a pre-season friendly, but surely his performance and our reaction precipitated events’.
Some days after that friendly, the Portuguese winger was in Manchester. The Red Devils paid 17 million euros for the player who was being followed by the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal or Chelsea.
‘After playing last week, the lads have not stopped talking about him in the dressing room. On the flight back, the pressured me to sign him. He is one of the most exciting young players I have ever seen’, the coach explained.
Without a doubt, one of Ferguson’s best decisions at Manchester United. That friendly changed Ronaldo’s life and the history of the Old Trafford outfit.