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  :: Cristiano Ronaldo Interview ::
Cristiano Ronaldo Interview

     In a whirlwind of 10 days, Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos Aveiro went from being one of Europe's hottest prospects to becoming Manchester United’s new number seven. Ronaldo arrived in Manchester six days after starring for Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese club’s 3-1 pre-season friendly win over United.

Just 24 hours later he was being described as “one of the most exciting young players I’ve ever seen” by Sir Alex Ferguson in a press release announcing his transfer. A Day later he was appearing alongside Kleberson at a media conference to introduce United’s forth and fifth signing of the summer. Three days after he was making his debut, tearing Bolton’s defence apart and hearing his name sung by the Stretford End.

He was a hit with the supporters before even kicking a ball. As he stepped from the bench in the 59th minute of the first home game of the season Old Trafford rose to greet him. It was quite a welcome for a player that the majority of fans hadn’t seen play before. But maybe they sensed what was coming?

Having been dumped on his backside inside a minute of his debut he jumped to his feet and set about Bolton. A game that appeared to be drifting along at 1-0 had suddenly burst into life.

Displaying a dazzling array of step-overs and feints he dribbled past Kevin Nolan and Nicky Hunt, creating chances and winning a penalty within minutes of his introduction.

He then switched to the right wing and proved that he really is ‘equal-footed’, tormenting the other side of Bolton’s defence. The fans loved it, chanting “You’ve only come to see Ronaldo” in the direction of the away end.

At the final whistle he was congratulated by his new teammates and shook hands with fans as he left the pitch. As debuts go it had been one of the more impressive and there was no doubting who would be taking the plaudits in the Sunday papers. Especially after Sir Alex told journalists, “I think the fans have got a new hero to talk about tonight.”

A few days before the Bolton game, on Wednesday 13 August, Cristiano Ronaldo became United’s fourth signing of the summer (he’d have been fifth but for the fact he beat Kleberson in putting pen to paper because the Brazilian needed a hearing to obtain a work permit). The press release announcing the deal is sent out, and united are granted the first exclusive interview with the teenager.

Leaving Old Trafford at the same time as Ronaldo I witness his first encounter with United fans. With his agent and interpreter he follows the club photographer John Peters across the forecourt and Sir Matt Busby Way into the car park. He’s surrounded by supporters hoping for an autograph. Some hang back tentatively, not quite sure who the tall youngster is, others though have read their morning papers and recognise him as the man dubbed the ‘New Ronaldo’. He happily signs shirts as he heads towards John’s car. Meanwhile, a television crew snatches a soundbite from his agent Luis Correia.

“Cristiano is delighted to have joined Manchester United,” he tells Sky Sports News, “the biggest club in the world.”

Moments later Cristiano starts the 10-minute journey to the training ground, driving through Trafford Park, joining the M60 motorway and then pulling off towards Carrington.

Once inside the Trafford Training Centre he is taken up to see the manager in his office and we wait for him to complete his first few tasks as a Manchester United player. He’s introduced to his new teammates, has something to eat in the staff canteen and is taken to be measured up for his kit in the changing room area. An hour later, he joins us in the pressroom.

“When a club of the stature of Manchester United come in for you and want to sign you, you don’t think twice,” says Ronaldo through his interpreter.

“In my opinion, Manchester United is the greatest club in the world and for that reason I picked them.”

It’s difficult to judge the tone of a player’s answers when using an interpreter, but Ronaldo’s body language is that of a confident professional, several years his senior. He may only be 18 years old, but he exhibits as much confidence off the pitch as he does on it and any feelings of bewilderment he may be experiencing due to speed of the transfer aren’t showing. He seems to be taking the tag of British football’s most expensive teenager in his stride.

Cristiano Ronaldo Interview

“Lots of young players have triumphed at United, so why can’t it happen to me?” he replies when I ask if he’s concerned by the size of the transfer fee and at the prospect of adapting to another country at such a tender age. “I’m not worried I’m young. It’s an incentive to do the best I can. I’m living a dream I never want to wake up from. I knew United were tracking various Sporting players but I never figured I would be the one chosen.

“The Premier League is shown on Portuguese television so I know lots about English football. From what I have seen I think that with work, hard work. I will be able to push for a first team place. I think my game will suit the English way of playing. I am especially proud to be the first Portuguese player to join United.”

“Born in Funchal on the island of Madeira, Ronaldo’s short football career began at Andorinha where his father Diniz worked as a kit man. From the age of 12 was spotted by Sporting Lisbon. After youth level, he broke into the Sporting first team. On his debut he scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Moreirense and ended the season having made 23 appearances. Them came his performance against United which confirmed for Sir Alex Ferguson that the players was ready to make the move to Old Trafford.

“I don’t think the United players knew anything about him but in the pre-match talk we said this was a very talented boy,” recalls the Gaffer. “They knew that at half-time!

After the game, the lads in the dressing room talked about him constantly, and on the plane back from the game they urged me to sign him – that’s how highly they treated him.”

The United boss also points out that the last time his players eulogised about a player to the extent they did on the plane home from Lisbon was just prior to him signing Eric Cantona. Nobody at the club is saying that he’ll go on to have the impact that Eric did but the United players’ reaction to playing against the 18 year old indicates just how highly they regard him.

“I had heard one or two rumours about him before the Lisbon game,” the Reds’ skipper Roy Keane admits, “but the quality really showed through that night. He is a big strong lad and his movement was excellent. He really looks a hell of a player and we were talking about him so much afterwards.”

Perhaps part of the reason he was so impressive against United was that he didn’t know that they were looking to sign him.

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