Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his second Manchester United debut tomorrow against Newcastle.
And, on the eve, the first player who was unfortunate enough to handle Ronaldo on his first ever training sessions at Old Trafford 18 years ago has spoken about the torrid time he experienced.
Lee Lawrence was fresh from the confidence that came with winning the FA Youth Cup in 2003 when Ronaldo was signed, but was wary when some members of that youth team came back from a pre-season first team trip to Lisbon.
“The expectation that was there on him before he arrived, he proved himself in abundance,” Lawrence said, exclusively on this week’s Talking Devils podcast.
Lawrence, a full-back, recalled his introduction to the new player who followed the United players back to Manchester. “I always remember the first training session,” Lee says. “The first team and new players would be blooded in with the reserve lads to get them stable and used to their new environments, especially the younger lads, and considering how well the reserve team were doing at that time.”
Lawrence went on to describe the extraordinary events of the first session.
“There was a huge buzz around the place when he came. Me, being a local boy, thought to myself that I’ll give him a bit of stick. Give him a bit of what he doesn’t like. I’ll never forget it. He had the ball at his feet and I thought, ‘right, he’s having it’. I slid in two-footed. He literally flicked the ball over my head. I went flying. He turned around in mid-air and volleyed it into the top corner. I thought, ‘that’s it, sub me off, I don’t want to train anymore!’ He was literally that good. He was fantastic, and still is to this day.”
Lee Lawrence is a regular on our Talking Devils podcast along with Phil Marsh every Friday night at 7pm. Watch the show here.