If Fernando Santos could have his time back again as Sporting CP coach, he would not have allowed then-teenage sensation Cristiano Ronaldo to face Manchester United in that famous friendly which shaped the Portuguese star’s career.
In 2003, a baby-faced Ronaldo came up against United in a pre-season game and dazzled his English opponents, so much so that Alex Ferguson quickly signed the 18-year-old.
The rest is history as Ronaldo went on to win three Premier League titles and the Champions League before making the move to Real Madrid, where he has claimed two European crowns and LaLiga since 2009.
Reflecting on Ronaldo’s stunning career, Portugal coach Santos revealed his regret in fielding the three-time Ballon d’Or winner against United on that fateful night 13 years ago.
“I was the coach when Sporting played United. I played Cristiano Ronaldo and later wished I hadn’t,” Santos said on Wednesday.
“A week after [Ricardo] Quaresma left to join Barcelona, then two days later Cristiano Ronaldo was on his way to Manchester.
“Back in those day, I could never have imagined that 13 years on, both of them would be crowned European champions with the national team.”