Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has voiced his regrets over Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Manchester United in 2003. The Euro 2016-winning boss was Sporting Lisbon manager when Ronaldo produced a head-turning performance against the Red Devils at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, ultimately leading to his transfer to England.
At the time, United had been tracking Ronaldo's progress for a number of months, but the club decided to accelerate their interest in the teenager on the back of his stellar showing. On reflection, however, Santos wishes he had not selected Ronaldo in his side, because he might have kept hold of the winger for a little longer.
"I was the coach when Sporting played United. I played Cristiano Ronaldo and later wished I hadn't," Santos said of Ronaldo's transfer to United, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
"A week after [Ricardo] Quaresma left to join Barcelona, then two days later Cristiano Ronaldo was on his way to Manchester. Back in those day, I could never have imagined that 13 years on, both of them would be crowned European champions with the national team."
Ronaldo, meanwhile, recently claimed the friendly match against United transpired to be the "perfect night" for him. The record-breaking star revealed Sir Alex Ferguson convinced him to join United straight after the match and he moved to Old Trafford just five days later.
"The first game that I played against Manchester United was an unbelievable game," the ex-United player told Sky Sports. "It was the perfect night, the perfect night. After the game some of my teammates said: 'Listen, you're going to go to Manchester, trust me!'"
Sir Alex introduced Ronaldo to United's star-studded squad in the away dressing room, and Ronaldo admitted he was nervous about meeting some of the team. "Sir Alex Ferguson was there, and [they said] he wants to speak with you. I go to the dressing room, he introduced me to the players," he recalled.
"For me, I was a little bit shy. And Sir Alex Ferguson said to me: 'Listen, I want you now.' Everything came so fast, and two days after I speak to the coach and they take me to England, and I was in Manchester, and I signed."