Cristiano Ronaldo's "bloody fantastic" first Manchester United debut gave Sir Alex Ferguson a major headache, the legendary manager has revealed.
After signing from Sporting Lisbon aged 18, Ronaldo wasn't intended to be a first-team regular for the Red Devils in the 2003/04 season.
He therefore began the opening Premier League match against Bolton on the bench, before being brought on by Sir Alex in the second half with his side 1-0 up.
What followed was an extraordinary 30-minute cameo which had the Old Trafford crowd on their feet at full-time with a further three goals having gone in.
The debut took not only the fans by surprise, but also Sir Alex, who then had a selection dilemma on his hands.
Speaking to the United club website, he said: "I always remember, that when we had the discussion [about Ronaldo signing for United], I think the thing I wanted to impress on his agent, in particular, [was that] he won't play every game.
"But if he's so good, I can't stop him, [because] you always play your best players.
"The opening game of the season, he was substitute. He came on and he was absolutely bloody fantastic. The crowd was magnificent; the crowd loved it.
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"So here we had a situation: do I play him the next game or do I put him back on the bench? That was a big problem, that, you know?!"
Ferguson, never one to allow outside noise influence him, stuck to his guns and kept Ronaldo as a substitute for the next match away at Newcastle.
Just a matter of days later he did get his first start, though, as United welcomed Wolves for a midweek clash.
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It took him a while to get going, but he finished the campaign with six goals and nine assists from 40 appearances in all competitions.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Ronaldo, who was sat alongside Fergie for the interview, added: "Everything that he said to me, he did.
"And it's difficult. Imagine at 18, you arrive from Sporting, you play with the stars – with Giggsy, Scholes, Roy Keane, Solskjaer – I was a little bit nervous. But he helped me a lot by the communication."
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