Former Manchester United defender and France international, Mikael Silvestre, has recalled his first encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo and how he immediately knew that Alex Ferguson’s side needed to sign him.
Silvestre, who made 249 appearances for Manchester United between 1999-2008, spoke about his former side’s 2003 pre-season friendly with Sporting Lisbon where a teenage Ronaldo played an instrumental role in helping his side to a 3-1 victory.
Such was the impact that Ronaldo had on Ferguson and the Manchester United players, the then 18-year-old was signed by Ferguson a month later.
“The first time I came across him was in 2003 when we played a friendly at Sporting,” Silvestre told Four Four Two.
“In the team talk beforehand, Ferguson mentioned a talented young lad to watch out for. He didn’t mention his name, but we all knew it afterwards!
“He was torturing poor John O’Shea on the left wing, showing off his speed and changes of direction with the ball. We were like, ‘Hmm, it would be good if this guy would wear a United shirt instead…’ After the match, Gary Neville came into the dressing room and said, ‘Sign this kid, gaffer.’ Sir Alex just said, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’
“I can remember sitting on the team bus waiting to leave, and we were there for quite a bit longer than usual because Sir Alex was speaking to Cristiano and Sporting, convincing him to come to Old Trafford.
“I don’t know if there was on specific moment when he changed at United, though. After his arrival he just carried on improving in all areas, and you could see that it was simply a matter of time before he was going to compete with the best.
“Because he had that mindset, it didn’t come as a surprise.”
As we all know, Ronaldo would go on to be a hugely successful signing for Manchester United. In 196 appearances for the Manchester club, he scored 84 goals before departing for Real Madrid for a then world-record transfer fee in 2009.