Ronaldo picture special: From the skinny kid to the toned veteran

Cristiano Ronaldo picture special: From the skinny kid at Carrington in 2003 to the toned veteran back and ready for more in 2021… the highs and lows of his Man United career ahead of his second debut

  • Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United – 12 years after he initially left the club for Real Madrid in 2009
  • The Portuguese star rejoined in a £19.8m move from Juventus and could make his second debut on Saturday
  • The 36-year-old first arrived at Old Trafford as a skinny lad from Madeira in 2003 and is now the world’s best
  • Ronaldo won many top-flight titles, one Champions League trophy and many individual prizes in his first stint
  • Sportsmail goes through the picture archives to find the best images of Ronaldo’s United journey so far… 

He’s back. Cristiano Ronaldo is on course to make his second Manchester United debut against Newcastle on Saturday – but what does the Portuguese forward’s story at Old Trafford look like so far?

The 36-year-old forward made a sensational return to the club where he made a name for himself last month in a £19.8million move from Juventus – 12 years after he left the Premier League giants in a then-world-record £80million to Real Madrid. 

Ronaldo’s first spell at Old Trafford was nothing short of memorable. The skinny lad from Madeira turned into the world’s best player in the space of half a decade, winning Premier League titles, European and world trophies along with individual honours such as the Ballon D’Or – all in emphatic and glorious fashion. 

It was not all plain sailing for the Portuguese wonderkid at Old Trafford. It took his United side three years to wrestle the Premier League title away from Arsenal and Chelsea, there was the 2006 fall-out with team-mate Wayne Rooney after the pair clashed at the 2006 World Cup, while his final game for United ended on a sour note with the 2009 Champions League defeat to Barcelona. 

The 36-year-old cuts a very different figure to the one that first arrived on English shores in 2003. His training images from this week show off a toned veteran who has travelled the world and won everything there is to win at eEurope’s elite level. 

With the Premier League waiting for the return of arguably its greatest ever player, Sportsmail goes through the archives to look back on Ronaldo’s first spell at United…



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Cristiano Ronaldo first caught Man United’s eye when he bamboozled their defence in a friendly for Sporting Lisbon in 2003

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (left) signed the skinny teen almost immediately after that summer friendly


Ronaldo was handed United’s iconic No 7 shirt worn by the likes of club legends David Beckham and Eric Cantona beforehand

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Ronaldo’s first Man United goal came via a free-kick against Portsmouth at Old Trafford – the first of many memorable strikes

The Portuguese’s slender frame wasn’t helped by the baggy kit he wore for the Red Devils in his debut 2003-04 campaign

Ronaldo lifted his first trophy for the club in his debut season at Man United – scoring in the 3-0 FA Cup final win over Millwall 

Ronaldo showed he could cut it at the biggest stage by scoring twice in the 4-2 victory at then-champions Arsenal in 2004-05

There were low points in Ronaldo’s United career too – briefly falling out with Wayne Rooney (right) after the 2006 World Cup

Portuguese winger Ronaldo lifted his first Premier League title in 2007, just as his physique was starting to bulk out

The 2007-08 season saw Ronaldo truly hit his strides as he led United to Premier League and Champions League glory

Ronaldo netted another memorable free-kick against Portsmouth in 2008 – one of the best set-piece goals England has seen

The winger netted the first of many Champions League final goals in 2008 – earning United the lead over Chelsea in Moscow 


Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 2008 shootout win and added the Club World Cup (right) to his Champions League title


Ronaldo also won individual honours at Old Trafford, notably the Ballon D’Or and FIFA Player of the Year back in 2008

Ronaldo added two more Premier League titles to his name in 2008 and 2009, scoring 49 league goals in those two seasons

The final game of Ronaldo’s first spell at United was the disappointing 2-0 Champions League final loss to Barcelona in 2009

Ronaldo completed a record £80m move to Real Madrid, scoring on his Old Trafford return in 2013 Champions League victory

In 2018, Ronaldo joined Juventus for a £100m fee also scoring against United in the Champions League later that year

Ronaldo is now back at Old Trafford after sealing a £19.8m move from Juventus, 12 years after he left United back in 2009

Ronaldo is back training at Carrington and is set to make his second United debut this Saturday against Newcastle United



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