Cristiano Ronaldo’s awkward Gary Neville moment ahead of Man Utd and Atalanta clash

Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal on Man Utd return in pictures

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As Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to face Atalanta on Tuesday, the Manchester United star is today celebrating a special anniversary. This day marks 18 years since his first goal for the club, which came in a 3-0 win over Portsmouth. And he’s certainly evolved from the awkward teenager who came out in the post-match interview alongside Gary Neville to face the media.

These days, Ronaldo is going strong at United.

Though the club have endured a troublesome start to the campaign under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, leading to calls for the Norwegian to go, the 36-year-old hasn’t disappointed since his Hollywood homecoming on transfer deadline day.

Ronaldo has scored seven times across all competitions this term, with his latest coming against Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday.

And it’s clear the 36-year-old is drastically transformed from the teenager who first graced these shores back in 2003.

That year, United lost David Beckham to Real Madrid.

They allowed the England international to swap Old Trafford for the Bernabeu after he’d fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Ferguson then planned on snapping up Ronaldinho from Paris Saint-Germain, especially given his exploits for Brazil at the World Cup the previous year.

But after missing out to Barcelona, and being torn to shreds by Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly, United went after Ronaldo instead.

Now, today marks 18 years since his first goal for the club.

Diego Forlan opened the scoring that day, heading home from close range after some good work from Ryan Giggs.

And Ronaldo then doubled United’s lead in the closing stages before Roy Keane got on the scoresheet.

Following the contest, Ronaldo was sent to face the media after receiving the man of the match award.

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And he went out alongside club stalwart Neville, who then had to help him through the whole affair.

Ronaldo struggled, not knowing the English word for ‘confident’.

And Neville jokingly gave him a few tips on what to say, such as ‘‘I enjoyed game. I dribble very well’.

Ronaldo was amused by the whole thing and, over the course of his first season in England, his use of the language drastically improved.

And, these days, the veteran is more than happy to speak when the microphone is thrust under his nose.

United go up against Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday with Ronaldo key to their hopes of winning the competition.

He’s already saved his side twice in the tournament, against Villarreal and the Serie A side respectively.

And with Ronaldo still going strong, United will be hoping he can stand up and deliver at a time where Solskjaer is under renewed pressure.

In 2016, Neville opened up on the first time he saw Ronaldo play – admitting it was a stunning experience.

“He was up against John O’Shea, who was obviously a good defender; he was strong, he was quick and he knew where to position himself,” he said.

“Sheasy was playing in the position I would normally play – right-back – but I was injured and I was watching the game at home on MUTV.

“Like Sheasy, I’m very aware of how difficult it is to play against certain types of movement.

“I specifically remember Cristiano making a certain move where he cut inside and ran between O’Shea and our centre-half. He made this double movement and I remember thinking ‘oh my God’.

“Obviously you could see the skill he had on the ball and his natural talent, but these days what you see less and less is players who make runs without the ball in between the full-back and the centre-back.

“I would say that’s possibly the most underrated run of all.

“It’s so difficult for the full-back and centre-back to defend against, as the full-back doesn’t know when to pass over the attacker to the centre-back or play offside. The centre-back then could have a decision to make whether to leave him or track the runner. It’s a really difficult issue, especially when the ball is in a central area.

“I remember watching Cristiano make that run between the full-back and centre-back and thinking ‘wow, you don’t normally see that from experienced players, never mind a young kid’.

“What a player, I thought. After the match I remember sending a text to my brother, saying ‘we need to sign him’ and apparently there was a lot of talk about him on the coach after the game.

“Obviously players should never be involved in signings, but he certainly made everyone sit up and take notice. I’d never heard of him and I’d never seen him before that night, but there was a huge excitement among the players afterwards.”

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