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The "other" Ronaldo

Man U forgets Beckham as newest signee steals headlines

Posted: Sunday August 17, 2003 10:54 AM

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Manchester United's new signing Cristiano Ronaldo opened his premier league career with a 30-minute cameo which won rave notices in Sunday's British papers.

The 18-year-old Portuguese striker showed no nerves but plenty of flair in filling David Beckham's old number seven shirt in a 4-0 demolition of Bolton at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Although he did not score on the opening day of the season, he still stole the headlines from two-goal scorer Ryan Giggs.

The Sunday Telegraph proclaimed in a banner headline that "A Star is Born" following his appearance as a 60th minute substitute for Nicky Butt.

The report offered praise of the English champions' new 12.24 million pound ($19.58 million) acquisition from Sporting Lisbon, comparing him to previous illustrious holders of the shirt including Eric Cantona and George Best.

"Even Best did not make a debut as exhilarating as Ronaldo -- pacy, two-footed, willing to take people on and not afraid to take a kick in the process," the paper said.

Instant legend

The Mail on Sunday described Ronaldo as "the new Cantona" and said Old Trafford proclaimed "an instant legend" after he helped set up Giggs's second and United's third goal.

"Just this once," wrote the Sunday Times, "all the hype and hullabaloo could be justified.

"This precocious 18-year-old's mesmeric feet are destined to give a few defenders twisted blood as they used to say of the number seven par excellence, George Best."

The People summed up its feelings for the newcomer in one two-page headline: "Who Needs Beckham?"

Ronaldo's performance also impressed Giggs, who told reporters that the newcomer would be an exciting new fixture for the 1999 Champions League winners.

"There was the same buzz in there about Ronaldo as there was when we first saw Eric Cantona," he told reporters.

"He lifted the crowd and he lifted the players. He's that kind of footballer, a really outstanding prospect."

Manager Alex Ferguson, who wrote in the match programme notes that Beckham's place in the club's success story would last forever, was also delighted.

"It was a marvellous debut. Sometimes it is difficult to believe he is only 18," he told reporters. "We will be careful with him and won't throw him into every game.

"He has done well to get a call-up to the Portugal squad and he will join up with them this week. The experience of being with Rui Costa and Luis Figo will stand him in good stead. He'll benefit from it and so will we."

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