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John O’Shea will renew acquaintances with Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday night still shuddering at the memories of his first encounter with Portugal’s superstar.

In August 2003, the relatively unknown Sporting Lisbon teenager caused Manchester United all kinds of problems in a pre-season friendly at the Jose Alvalade Stadium, with Rio Ferdinand later joking that O’Shea had needed an oxygen tank at half-time, while Roy Keane said the 18-year-old had left the defender suffering dizzy spells.

O’Shea, who like his team-mates could lay claim to a spot of jet-lag following their return from a pre-season tour to America, said when asked if he remembered that night: “I do. Slightly jet-lagged, but I do remember.”

Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a glittering six-year spell alongside John O'Shea at Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a glittering six-year spell alongside John O’Shea at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

He added: “Look, we were fully aware of his talent, obviously, that night in Lisbon.

“But the player that arrived into Old Trafford, into Carrington, I’ve mentioned before many times, his dedication in terms of improving his technique every week, every day…

“Look, there was some tough challenges, not only in terms of the opposition he was facing, but also in the training matches. We were making him fully prepared for what the Premier League was going to be, the tests he was going to have to face.

“It wasn’t a surprise to me to see what he’s gone on to do because we saw how special a player he was very early.”

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cristiano Ronaldo after his stunning friendly display
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cristiano Ronaldo after his stunning friendly display (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sir Alex Ferguson signed Ronaldo a matter of days later and he and O’Shea spent six trophy-laden seasons together at Old Trafford.

Almost 21 years on, they will go head to head once again as the Republic meet Portugal in a friendly in Aveiro, although this time the 118-times-capped Ireland defender will watch on from a safe distance.

O’Shea has been placed in interim charge of his country for the second time as the Football Association of Ireland continues its search for Stephen Kenny’s successor, while Ronaldo – now 39 – is a member of Roberto Martinez’s squad which will launch their Euro 2024 campaign against the Czech Republic on June 18.

The interim Ireland boss said with a smile: “I won’t be playing, thankfully, tomorrow. Hopefully he is resting, hopefully he’s having another rest – he might need another week to prepare for the Euros.

“He’s an amazing footballer – still is – the records and goals that he’s still setting, his dedication and professionalism, and he’s getting his rewards for that.

“As a team-mate, he was brilliant because of the character he was too, the relationship he had with everyone and it was superb to see him develop. The player that arrived and the player who left, you could see the difference, where he was wanting to go and continued to go.

“He was a very, very special player and it was great to have him as a team-mate for so many years and play alongside him.”

Asked if he expected Ronaldo to make an impression at the Euros under Martinez, he added: “I’ve no doubt whatever plans or rotations Portugal will have to use him to maximise how far they get in the tournament, I think Ronaldo will be a key part of that, definitely.”

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