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Former Academy Player Details What It Was Like Playing Against Ronaldo In His Manchester United Audition

Former Academy Player Details What It Was Like Playing Against Ronaldo In His Manchester United Audition

The former Manchester United youngster who had to mark an 18-year old Cristiano Ronaldo has recalled just how good he was.

Ronaldo played for Sporting CP against United in a pre-season friendly back in 2003 in what was effectively an audition for the young kid from Madeira.

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With his questionable blonde extensions, Ronaldo was utterly unplayable in a 3-1 win and tied United defenders in knots with his mazy dribbling.

He was so good that he prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to snap him up immediately for £12.24 million that summer, with some of the players gawking over the youngster they had just shared the stage with.

21-year old Mark Lynch, who made one competitive first-team appearance for United, was one of those players.

Image: PA
Image: PA
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The local lad came on in and was opposite Ronaldo. His approach was to try and rough him up to throw him off his game but it didn't have the desired effect.

"He was a couple of levels above everyone else," Lynch told the Manchester Evening News.

"On the night he wanted to make an impact and and show United what he can do. He produced a sizzling display on a really bad pitch. You could hardly control the ball, but he did.

"I was sat on the bench thinking 'this kid's got a bit of something here', but you keep thinking will it continue if he does get tackled hard?

"I remember I caught him in the second-half, went right down his shin and funnily enough I didn't even get booked for it. He's bounced up, put a cross in and they scored from it.

"He just dealt with it and didn't shy away from the physical aspect, he was amazing during that game and it was a steal getting him at the price.

"It is probably no surprise he has become the player he has."

Lynch wasn't the only one to be given the runaround, however. According to Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea needed to catch his breath after being destroyed by his future teammate.

"We played against Sporting in 2003, we get in at half-time and John O'Shea must've needed an oxygen tank next to him," Ferdinand revealed while playing FIFA 20 as part of the 'Stay Home. Play Together' campaign by EA SPORTS and COPA90.

"He was in bits and he was sitting there panting. We were telling him to get closer to Ronaldo and he couldn't even answer us.

"To be fair, me, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were standing there going 'this kid's unbelievable, we've got to sign him'.

"We got on the coach and we were delayed for about an hour and a half, and then they said they were doing a deal to sign Ronaldo now."

Ronaldo spent six trophy-laden years at United, scoring 118 goals and winning the first of five Ballon d'Ors during his time at the club.

Topics: Football News, Football, Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo

Josh Lawless

Josh is a sports journalist who specialises in football and wrestling. He has been published by Curzon Ashton FC, Late Tackle, Manchester City FC, The Mirror, Read Man City and Manchester Evening News. He provides coverage of professional wrestling and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first UK interview with The Hardy Boyz after their return to WWE. He has never sported a pair of Lonsdale Slip-ons, contrary to reports.

 

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