When Manchester United first signed an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003, he was a rough diamond of a tricky winger, whose electric fe...
|Ronaldo physically matured a few years into his Man Utd career | ANDREW YATES/Getty Images|
|Ronaldo was an all-round game-changer by 2007/08 | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images|
Ronaldo dispelled any last shred of accusations of being a ‘soft’ winger because he rose to meet the ball knowing that a heavy physical collision was likely whether he got there or not. The hit and fall that inevitably came as he powered the ball into the back of the net knocked the wind out of him, but he had done his job by scoring a crucial away goal that put his team in front.
Ronaldo was a game-changer so often that season, which remains one of the very best in United’s storied history, finding a way to use his ever-increasing array of abilities to make the key difference in any given moment. By then, he was so far removed from the frustrating teenager that first arrived in Manchester and was already well on his way to becoming one of the greatest of all-time.