13 Nov, 14:00
Marcus Rashford was only five-years-old when he went to his first live game and witnessed a Brazilian striker confound his beloved Manchester United’s defence in a performance that would forever stay with the eventual England forward.
Rashford was too young to recall vividly as Real Madrid lost 4-3 on the night but Ronaldo’s goals took them through on aggregate but a boy was mesmerized and would always try to emulate the great forward as he developed through Fletcher Moss Rangers — who he joined that same year — and then Manchester United’s academy two years later.
Encouraged by his older brother Dwaine, now Rashford’ s agent, Rashford studied videos of the Brazilian striker and modelled his game accordingly, but it was those goals on that crisp evening that planted seeds that have blossomed into Rashford’s game: that speed of dribble, the ability to run at defenders full pelt and keep the ball away from them at all costs.
Add a more reliable, consistent finish and Rashford will go some way to merely trying to replicate his idol.
For the first goal that April evening in 2003 Ronaldo sprinted off Rio Ferdinand’s shoulder with his Cheetah’s pace and sent a bouncing ball bouncing into Fabien Barthez’s near post.
For the second, which virtually secured Real’s progression, the finish was simple but when he tapped in Roberto Carlos’s pass he had lost two opponents six yards from goal.
The third was the best: carrying the ball from midway in United’s half and unleashing from 25 yards. Ronaldo, 27 at the time, was already being described as past his best due to injuries and carrying those few extra timbers that became a feature at his career’s end.
Ronaldo, a World Cup winner in 1994 and 2002, has admitted that he sees shades of himself in the United forward.