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Cristiano Ronaldo

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo became Manchester United's first-ever Portuguese player when he signed for £12.24 million after the 2002–03 season. He requested the number 28 (his number at Sporting), as he did not want the pressure of living up to the expectation linked to the number 7 shirt, which had previously been worn by team legends like Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, and David Beckham. "After I joined, the manager asked me what number I'd like. I said 28. But Ferguson said 'No, you're going to have No. 7,' and the famous shirt was an extra source of motivation. I was forced to live up to such an honour."
C. Ronaldo with Manchester United

Ronaldo made his team debut as a 60th-minute substitute in a 4-0 home victory over Bolton Wanderers, and scored United's thousandth Premier League goal on 29 October 2005 in a 4-1 loss to Middlesbrough He scored ten goals in all competitions, and fans voted him to consecutive FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year awards in 2005 and 2006.

In November and December of 2006, Ronaldo received consecutive Barclays Player of the Month honours, becoming only the third player in Premier League history to do so after Dennis Bergkamp in 1997 and Robbie Fowler in 1996. He scored his fiftieth career Manchester United goal against city rivals Manchester City F.C. as United claimed their first Premier League title in four years.

Despite rumours circulating in March 2007 that Real Madrid were willing to pay an unprecedented €80 million (£54 million) for Ronaldo, he signed a five-year, £120,000-a-week extension with United on 13 April, making him the highest-paid player in team history.

Ronaldo was involved in several diving incidents during the 2006-07 campaign. He was criticised by manager Gareth Southgate for diving in a December 2006 match against Middlesbrough. On 4 February 2007, Ronaldo was again accused of diving in a match against Tottenham Hotspur when he won a penalty kick despite little contact from Tottenham winger Steed Malbranque. Despite the controversies, Ronaldo nonetheless amassed a host of personal awards for the season. He won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards, joining Andy Gray (in 1977) as the only players to receive this honor.] In April, he completed the treble by winning the PFA Fans' Player of the Year. Ronaldo was also one of seven Manchester United players named in the 2006–07 PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

Ronaldo's 2007–08 season began with a red card for an alleged headbutt of Portsmouth F.C. player Richard Hughes during United's second match of the season, for which he was punished with a three-match ban. Ronaldo said he had "learned a lot" from the experience and would not let players "provoke" him in the future. After scoring the only goal in a Champions League road match against Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo also scored the injury-time winner in the return fixture as Manchester United topped their CL group.

He finished as the runner-up to Kaká for the 2007 Ballon D'or, and was third in the running for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, behind Kaká and Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo scored his first hat trick for Manchester United in a 6–0 win against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on 12 January 2008, bringing Manchester United up to the top of the Premier League table. He scored his twenty-third league goal of the season in a 2–0 win against Reading, equalling his entire total for the 2006–07 season. During a 1–1 Champions League first knockout round draw against Olympique Lyonnais on 20 February, an unidentified Lyon supporter continuously aimed a green laser at Ronaldo and United teammate Nani, prompting an investigation by UEFA. One month later, Lyon were fined CHF5,000 (£2,427) for the incident.

On 19 March 2008, Ronaldo captained the United for the first time in his career in a home win over Bolton, scoring both goals in the 2–0 victory. The second of the goals was his 33rd of the campaign, which set a new club single-season scoring record by a midfielder and thus topped George Best's forty-year-old total of 32 goals in the 1967–68 season. Ronaldo scored another brace in a 4–0 win over Aston Villa on 29 March, which at the time gave him 35 goals in 37 domestic and European matches as both a starter and substitute. Ronaldo's torrid scoring streak was rewarded with his becoming the first winger to win the 2007–08 European Golden Shoe, finishing eight points ahead of Mallorca's Dani Güiza.

In the 2007–08 Champions League final on 21 May against league rivals Chelsea, Ronaldo scored the opening goal after 26 minutes, which was negated by a Chelsea equalizer in the 45th minute as the match ended 1–1 after extra time. His misfire in the penalty shoot-out put Chelsea in position to win the trophy, but John Terry shot wide right after slipping on the pitch surface, and Manchester United emerged victorious 6–5 on penalties. Ronaldo was named the UEFA Fans' Man of the Match, and wrapped up the campaign with a career-high 42 goals in all competitions, falling just four short of Denis Law's team-record mark of 46 in the 1963–64 season.

On 5 June 2008, Sky Sports reported that Ronaldo had expressed an interest in moving to Real Madrid if they offered him the same amount of money the team had allegedly promised him earlier in the year. Manchester United filed a tampering complaint with FIFA on 9 June over Madrid's alleged pursuit of Ronaldo, but FIFA declined to take any action. Speculation that a transfer would happen continued until 6 August, when Ronaldo confirmed that he would stay at Manchester for at least another year.

Ronaldo underwent ankle surgery at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam on 7 July. He returned to action on 17 September in United's UEFA Champions League goalless group-stage draw with Villarreal CF as a substitute for Park Ji-Sung, and scored his first overall goal of the season in a 3–1 League Cup third round win over Middlesbrough on August 30
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