It was exactly 15 years ago this Monday that Cristiano Ronaldo made his UEFA Champions’ League group stage debut in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at Stuttgart.
He had appeared in the third qualifying round of the competition in 2002/03, coming on 58 minutes into Sporting CP’s 0-0 draw against Inter Milan. Howevr, it was Sir Alex Ferguson who game him his first group stage game, the No7 – aged 18 and 238 days – playing all 90 minutes of a 2-1 loss to Felix Magath’s Stuttgart: then top of the Bundesliga.
The teenaged winger’s biggest contribution was a tangle with Stuttgart goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand, from which United earned a penalty – converted by Ruud van Nistelrooy – while UEFA.com’s report on the game focused more on another 18-year-old making his first UEFA Champions League start: Stuttgart’s on-loan Philipp Lahm.
The United starting lineup for that night:
Back row: Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Tim Howard
Front row: Mikaël Silvestre, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs