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What happened to Sir Alex Ferguson's Man Utd XI that played in Cristiano Ronaldo's debut

Daily Mirror

Excitement has spread throughout the Manchester United fanbase ahead of the first chance to see Cristiano Ronaldo in action for the first time in 12 years.

Ronaldo could make his second United debut in Saturday’s 3pm Premier League kick-off against Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

With the game part of the 3pm UK broadcasting blackout, only those lucky enough to have tickets will be able to watch the match live.

Ronaldo has signed a two-year contract, with the option of a third, upon his return to the club so there will be plenty of other opportunities to watch the Portuguese forward.

But Saturday could well be a special occasion, coming a whopping 6,601 days since his first appearance for the club way back on August 16, 2003.
Ronaldo took the Premier League by storm on his debut in August 2003 ( Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The venue is the same, but just about everything else has changed over the past 18 years.

As a way of underlining Ronaldo’s longevity, Mirror Football has taken a look at what happened to the United side which beat Bolton 4-0 at Old Trafford all those years ago.

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

The former USA international played for United between 2003 and 2007 before going on to have a long and successful stint with Everton.

Aged 42, he is now a sporting director of Memphis 901 FC and a pundit on US television.

He’s also a fan of Ronaldo’s United return, writing “ABSOLUTELY EPIC” on Twitter when the news was announced.

Right-back: Phil Neville
Neville was part of a successful era at United ( Image: Manchester United via Getty Images)

Like Howard, Neville moved on to join Everton, where he played for eight years before retiring in 2013.

The younger brother of Gary went into coaching after his playing career wound down, as well as taking a stake as part of the ownership group of Salford City.

Having taken charge of England Women for three years, he is now the head coach of David Beckham’s MLS franchise Inter Miami. After an extremely wobbly start of two wins in his first 12 matches, results have now picked up.

Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand spent 12 distinguished years with United and, after a year with QPR, he retired in 2015.

He is now one of the most prominent voices in English football, working as a pundit and media personality.

United partly have the 42-year-old to thank for Ronaldo’s return, given Ferdinand’s role in persuading his former team-mate to come back.

Centre-back: Mikael Silvestre

Silvestre was an underrated presence in United’s defence for nine years before playing for Arsenal, Werder Bremen, Portland Timbers and Indian side Chennaiyin FC.

Since retiring in 2014 he has embarked upon a wide range of pursuits, including being a director of football at Stade Rennais, charity work and founding a Caribbean rum brand. He could yet move into coaching, given he already has his UEFA A Licence.

Left-back: Quinton Fortune

The South African spent seven years with United, during which he was regularly rotated in and out of the side by Sir Alex Ferguson.

He went on to play for Bolton, Italian side Brescia, Belgian team Tubize and Doncaster Rovers before hanging up his boots in 2010.

Having gone into coaching, Fortune earned experience with United’s Under-23s and Reading. He confirmed to Man Utd's club website in June that he plans on becoming a manager.

Midfield: Nicky Butt

Butt came through United’s academy and spent 12 years in the first team before moving on to play for Newcastle.

He soon returned to Old Trafford to begin his coaching career and after working with the club’s reserves he was appointed head of the academy in 2016.

The 46-year-old left his role as head of first-team development in March to pursue new challenges.

He told Manchester Evening News : “I believe in a working environment you don’t want to stagnate too much, I felt like I was ready for a new challenge whatever that is going to be.”

Midfield: Roy Keane

No one really needs reminding what Keane is up to now, given he is constantly on our screens spouting his fiery opinions on the game for Sky Sports.

But it is easy to forget that before he was a pundit, Keane was a manager. He managed Sunderland and Ipswich, while also spending time as Martin O’Neill’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland, as well as stints at Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

Midfield: Paul Scholes
Scholes scored one of United's four goals against Bolton that day ( Image: Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Part of the so-called Golden Generation, Scholes was a fixture in the United midfield for 18 years, from 1993 to 2011. He returned for the 2012/13 season before calling time on a prestigious career.

Like many of his contemporaries, Scholes has dabbled in management, with Salford City - who he part-owns with his former team-mates - and Oldham Athletic.

The 46-year-old recently showed he still has it with his performance in Soccer Aid.

Forward: Ryan Giggs

United’s most capped player moved straight away into coaching as his career wound down.

Having been a player-coach under David Moyes, he took over as caretaker for the closing stages of the 2013/14 season.

The winger stayed on as Louis van Gaal’s assistant before moving on to take over Wales in 2018.

He is currently suspended from that role, with Rob Page in charge, having been charged with actual bodily harm and common assault against two women and coercive and controlling behaviour - allegations he has denied in court.

Forward: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Solskjaer was there at the start of Ronaldo’s United career and he will be there for the return - be it this weekend or later.

The Norwegian was a big favourite of Ferguson’s and played for the club for 11 years. He earned his management stripes with Molde and Cardiff before landing the United job in 2018 following Jose Mourinho’s spell in charge.

Forward: Ruud van Nistelrooy

A classic poacher, the Dutchman banged in 150 goals in 219 appearances for United between 2001 and 2006 before moving on to Real Madrid, Hamburg and Malaga.

Van Nistelrooy has been passing on his experience to players since retiring, working with Guus Hiddink with the Netherlands national team and PSV Eindhoven Under-19s.

Since 2019 he has been assistant manger with the national side while continuing to work with PSV.
Djemba-Djemba was not a success at United ( Image: Ben Radford/Getty Images)


Eric Djemba-Djemba (67 minutes, Solskjaer)

Djemba-Djemba joined United from Nantes around the same time as Ronaldo touched down from Sporting Lisbon the duo struck up a good friendship.

The former Cameroon international lived a nomadic life, joining Aston Villa in 2005 and playing for nine more clubs before retiring in 2016.

Cristiano Ronaldo (61 minutes, Butt)

That day, back in August 2003, was all about Ronaldo, who came off the bench with the score at 1-0 to light the game up as United scored three late goals.

“It was a marvellous debut,” Ferguson purred. “I thought the pace was too slow in the first half and I knew Cristiano would add penetration.”

He will be hoping for something similar the second time around too.

Diego Forlan (80 minutes, Giggs)

Unlike the vast majority of this side, Forlan’s stay in Manchester was short lived. The Uruguayan was only at the club for two seasons before continuing his journeyman career with Villarreal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Internacional, Cerezo Osaka, Penarol, Mumbai City and Kitchee.

As of May, he was manager at second-tier Uruguayan side Atenas de San Carlos.

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