Man Utd players were moaning on team bus while Sir Alex Ferguson did deal to sign Ronaldo

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2003

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2003 (Picture: Getty)

Rio Ferdinand has revealed how the decisiveness of Sir Alex Ferguson helped Manchester United win the race to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting Lisbon.

United accepted a late request to play a friendly against the Portuguese club in the summer of 2003 and were the opponents for the first game at the Jose Alvalade Stadium.

An 18-year-old Ronaldo stole the show and ran rings around several of United’s most experienced defenders, including Ferdinand who was taken aback by the talent the teenager possessed.

Arsene Wenger had been hopeful of adding Ronaldo to his own star studded Arsenal squad, but Ferguson’s speed of thought helped United win the race, even if it meant his players were left wondering where had disappeared to while they waited on the team bus.

‘He started there,’ Ferdinand told BT Sport. ‘We arrived there coming back from America on tour, this was the last leg everyone was knackered, jet-lagged etc and we got asked to play in it late.

‘We obviously got there, opened the stadium, we came off that pitch and anyone who didn’t know about Cristiano Ronaldo before we got there definitely did by the time we left.

‘When we got to the stadium in the pre-match warm-up people started, it got around and people saying that kid there he’s meant to be a superstar.

‘Bearing in mind we’d missed out on signing Ronaldinho as well that summer. We were still on the search for a superstar but we didn’t see it coming in the form of a young teenager.

‘But by the time the game finished all the players were saying to the manager wow are we going to get him.

We were sat on the coach after where are we going delayed an hour want to get home after a big tour and the manager and David Gill, the chief executive at the time, were upstairs doing a deal trying to sign him got him straight away, great recruitment.’

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