Old Trafford appreciates good football.
As a team that have been purveyors of some fine football, we can recognise something special and when we played Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League quarter final in 2003, 66,708 fans saw just that.
Having fallen behind 3-1 in the first leg at the Bernabéu, United were chasing the tie and the job was to be made infinitely harder with Ronaldo playing out of his skin.
If you mention Ronaldo to younger fans they will instantly think you mean Cristiano but before him there was the Brazilian striker, o Fenômeno, one of the finest the game ever saw as we were to find out that night.
His hat trick that night was resonated through world football especially his third which gave Barthez no chance and the response from those in attendance was fitting, a standing ovation for a magical performance.
Manchester United won that night but the 4-3 score line was irrelevant, it was Madrid who were to progress and it was Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima or simply Ronaldo who would steal the headlines despite David Beckham’s best efforts.
The Brazilian striker is set to call an end to a career that is strangely is bereft of major honours for a man as talented as himself and who had a career as long as his (most people would be happy with 2 world cup medals though so his achievements are nothing to be sniffed at! )
Ronaldo wasn’t one of my favourite players from his era (I preferred Raul) but strangly enough I remember a number of moments from his career like seeing him cry at the end of the 01/02 season after Inter lost to Lazio and missed out on the Serie A title (I also remember Juve players celebrating in their briefs after they beat Udinese to win the Scudetto!) as well as his debut for Real against Alaves which means he probably left more of an impression on me than I care to acknowledge but for the moments that I have remembered, forgotten or forcibly removed from my thoughts, that game at Old Trafford and his performance will remain.
To this day I still claim some sort of moral victory as we won on the night but realistically it was Ronaldo’s night regardless of the score and Old Trafford let him know this with a standing ovation.
One of the best strikers I’ve ever seen. You always pick players from the opposition that will hurt you and Ronaldo was that player, even among the stars that Madrid had at that time. Little did we know that night that he’d rip us to shreds the way he did. A shame that injuries hampered his career. In my books though he’ll still be regarded up there with the best.
Remember the game, remember the player, remember the hattrick. It was the best hattrick that I have ever seen. He single handedly took Real through.