Phil Neville jokes Cristiano Ronaldo should "thank him" for role in Man Utd move

Phil Neville claims that Cristiano Ronaldo owes him for the role he played in convincing Manchester United to sign the young forward in 2003.

The story goes that United were planning to buy the 18-year-old and loan him back to Sporting Lisbon for another year.

But Sir Alex Ferguson was so impressed with Ronaldo during a pre-season game between the two sides that he decided to bring him to Manchester immediately.

Casting his mind back, former United defender Neville joked that it was his poor performance at full-back that helped Ronaldo stand out.

"I think Cristiano's got to thank me a lot you know because I played in that game in Sporting Lisbon when he kept dancing past me down that wing," Neville told Sky Sports.

"The game when after the game Sir Alex signed him in the dressing room … I played in that game and you witnessed in 90 minutes someone that was going to be very special, no doubt about it.

"And it's not often you can say that about someone.

"So I just hope he comes up to me after the game and says thanks for your efforts in helping me get where I am today."

After the match, which Sporting won 3-1, the United players were as excited about the prospect of playing with Ronaldo as Ferguson was.

"We were on the bus afterwards waiting for chief executive David Gill and the boss Alex Ferguson," Rio Ferdinand recalled.

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"We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo. Within a week he was our player."

Ronaldo inherited the famous number 7 shirt from David Beckham – who left for Real Madrid that summer – and made an instant impact at Old Trafford.

He played 40 times in his debut season and scored the opening goal in the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall, though it was in 2006 when Ronaldo's United career really took off.

He scored 23 goals and won the 2006/07 PFA Player of the Year award as Ferguson's side won the Premier League for the first time in three years.

In 2008 he was awarded the Ballon d'Or for the first time, and left for Madrid the following year for a world-record fee after scoring over 100 goals for the Red Devils.

Over the next 12 seasons, Ronaldo would establish himself as one of history's most prolific goalscorers, as well as one of the greatest players of all time.

During spells with Madrid and later Juventus, Ronaldo scored over 550 goals, won four Champions League titles and four more Ballon d'Ors before eventually securing a move back to Old Trafford in 2021.

Neville and Ronaldo shared a dressing room for two seasons before the Englishman's move to Everton in 2005.

While he was used as a bit-part player for over a decade at United, Neville was a regular starter at Goodison Park and made over 300 appearances for the club before retiring in 2013.

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