George Best On Ronaldo’s Debut For Man Utd

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s first United game as a substitute in the season opener against Bolton was undoubtedly the most exciting debut performance I’ve ever seen.

A few of my old team-mates were at the game and they compared him to me. There have been a few players described as ‘the new George Best’ over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me. There have been players who have some similarities, but this lad’s got more than anyone else, especially as he is genuinely two-footed. He can play on either wing, beat players with ease and put in dangerous crosses with his left or right peg. When was the last time you saw that? With Ronaldo and Giggsy on the pitch at the same time, opposition defenders will be petrified!

Another thing I liked about Ronaldo against Bolton was how he dealt with the physical side. As soon as he came on, he was clattered from behind but he just got up and got on with the game, it didn’t faze him at all. That’s the right attitude. I used to relish it when defenders were trying to kick me up in the air – it only made me more determined to take the p*ss out of them!

Like most United fans, the first time I saw Ronaldo in action was for Sporting Lisbon against United in pre-season. I was watching with a friend of mine and I said, “Someone’s got to snap this kid up”, and guess who did? It really shows the value of United’s global network of feeder clubs. Every big club was looking to get Ronaldo, and if United hadn’t had a relationship with Sporting we might have missed out.
£12.4 million seems a high price for an 18-year old, but I think it’s a snip. You are talking about a lad who, if he stays injury-free, has 15 years ahead of him in the game.
He’s special, I could see that immediately.

Pessimists will point to Seba Veron, who started his United career sensationally, but never quite fulfilled his world-class potential with us. This is a different situation though because Seba was up against so many quality players just to get into the United team in central midfield. Ronaldo is an out-and-out winger, capable of playing on either side, and with Giggsy tending to play in a more central role, he’ll face less competition to get in the team so he can concentrate on destroying opposing teams from wide positions.

Us fans will want him to see Ronaldo play as much as possible, but I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson will protect him. Modern football is a bit like the Royal Command performance – everyone does their bit. It’s a squad game and it’s very rare that anyone plays the full 90 minutes these days. But whether Ronaldo starts or comes on as sub, what a fantastic player to have on our side.

Before the signing of Ronaldo, some fans were dubious about United’s summer dealings in the transfer market. I’m not sure if this is how Fergie planned it, but it’s worked out well for him. He let two class players go – we’ve already seen that both Seba and Becks will do the business at their new clubs – but I think Fergie felt he was well-equipped enough with what he has left and players coming in to let them go.

So far, we certainly aren’t missing Becks’ free-kicks because Giggsy is showing how many he might have scored if David hadn’t been there. And Ronaldo is the icing on the cake. His arrival has banished any worries about United losing merchandise income by selling Becks. In the next few months, thousands of kids will be wearing ‘Ronaldo 7’ shirts and asking their parents to get their hair tinted like him. Fergie thinks of everything – not only has he got the playing side covered but the marketing side too!
The thing is with Fergie is that sometimes you might not agree with or even understand some of his decisions, but he always works in what he believes are the best interests of the club. And he only has to point to the trophy cabinet to prove his judgement.

His recent acquisitions have really lowered the average age of the team, and it seems like he’s determined to build another great team. I get the impression that after deciding not to retire, he’s got the bug again and it’s no surprise to hear talk of him extending his contract.

The best thing that happened to him and the club was winning the title again last year. He’s buzzing and you can tell he can’t wait to get stuck into the season. He’s got a great mixture of English and foreign stars, young and old and I think Fergie won’t finish until he’s got a trophy haul that no-one will ever match.

Looking at the squad overall, it’s so exciting. With the Champions League about to start, it looks like we have the quality to win it again. I certainly can’t see Fergie retiring until he’s won it at least one more time, and he normally gets what he wants. Having uncovered a little gem in Ronaldo, it’s hard to imagine another European Cup triumph is too far away.

George was talking to Justyn Barnes

Image credit: REX Features

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