Phil Neville jokes Cristiano Ronaldo has to 'thank me a lot' for his role in securing 'dancing' superstar's move to Manchester United, having struggled to defend against him in friendly against Sporting Lisbon in 2003
Phil Neville has jokingly claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo owes him for helping him to secure his move to Manchester United, following the superstar's destructive cameo against his current club in 2003.
Casting his mind back to a pre-season friendly between United and Sporting Lisbon, then Ronaldo's team, Neville recalled to Sky Sports how the mercurial forward beat him on a number of occasions in a successful audition.
His performance was so impressive that Sir Alex Ferguson rushed to sign Ronaldo immediately after the game, and a number of dizzy Red Devils players also urged their manager to tie down the youngster.
Outlining how Ronaldo humiliating him helped to kickstart the now 36-year-old's incredible career, Neville said: '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.
'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.'
United legend Ryan Giggs has also reflected fondly on witnessing Ronaldo's magic on the same occasion, and described him as 'lighting up' the friendly.
'You see Ronaldo get the ball, and you see him turn John O'Shea inside out, and you're having a little giggle to yourself,' Giggs said in 2016, via Goal.
'He just lit up the game, all the lads were talking to him after the game and I remember we were waiting on the coach and everybody was wondering what we were waiting for.'
Meanwhile, Mikael Silvestre added, per Bleacher Report: 'It was an incredible performance to watch that night.
'This kid nobody knew tore us apart for the whole game. No one could get near him; he was amazing.
'At the start, no one had even heard of Ronaldo, but by the end, everyone knew about him.'
After the match, United's players were left on the team coach while Ferguson and United looked to sign Ronaldo immediately.
'We were on the bus afterwards waiting for chief executive David Gill and the boss Alex Ferguson,' Rio Ferdinand told The Sun.
'We were just willing them to sign Ronaldo. Within a week he was our player.'
Silvestre even remembered Neville, despite his torrid time trying to shackle Ronaldo, urging Ferguson to get the transfer done.
'Phil Neville came straight off the pitch and walked up to Sir Alex in the dressing room,' Silvestre added.
'''Boss, you have to sign him, you just have to!" Sir Alex just said, "OK, OK, don't worry, we are going to get it sorted".'