Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United sent many back in the timeline to the day he first arrived at the club. This time, the accompanying excitement was higher. The build-up to his signing, thanks to Manchester City's name being involved, was greater.
The young Portuguese forward who first ran at Old Trafford with the ambition to make it big is now an accomplished man, enjoying a sustained prime. He is way more mature than when he first left.
Cristiano Ronaldo's past only reflects more on the greatness of his journey. But in the early 2000s when the Portuguese first arrived, Manchester United was a dream destination for many.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been the best Manchester United transfer from 2003
It wasn't just him who had the opportunity to represent the Red Devils in the 2003/04 season. There were many others who made their debuts and got a run in the side. Such has been the impact of Cristiano Ronaldo on the club's history that even while revisiting the past, everyone else is only of vague importance.
Would you be able to recall the names of those that made their debuts in the same season as Cristiano Ronaldo? If you started watching football way later than that moment or have simply got no clue who those names could be, this list is for you. Here are five Manchester United flops that made their debut in the same season as CR7.
#5 Phil Bardsley
There's a lot of players who started at Manchester United but the early assessment for them was that they won't make it big at the club. Phil Bardsley belonged in the same category and is known today for his spells at Sunderland and Stoke City.
The right-back is currently serving at Burnley and notably has not been relegated despite playing for clubs who are currently not in the Premier League. The Scottish player made his debut in the same season as Cristiano Ronaldo in a League Cup game.
He made 18 appearances for the Old Trafford side before permanently leaving in 2007. While he was at the club, he was sent away on as many as five loan spells. Sir Alex Ferguson has had multiple encounters with the fullback since he left and Bardsley has often talked about those.
When he made his debut, the Portuguese started as the winger ahead of him. Bardsley told the Manchester United podcast how Mick Phelan used to put him and Cristiano Ronaldo against each other, one vs one.
It could be argued that Kleberson flopped at Manchester United due to the heavy weight of expectations. Sir Alex Ferguson and others expected him to walk in the shoes of legend Roy Keane and that was certainly a big ask. The Brazilian arrived in Manchester on the back of a World Cup triumph.
The then Brazil boss, Phil Scholari, hailed him as "the driving force" behind the team that sealed the world title. Despite his reputation being on the rise, Kleberson left Old Trafford after making 30 appearances over the course of two years.
Kleberson told FourFourTwo magazine a couple of years ago that it was Ronaldinho who was responsible for his Old Trafford move. The Brazilian forward told his compatriot that Manchester United were looking to sign both of them. The midfielder was convinced and thought it would be great to sign alongside Ronaldinho.
But, the Brazilian legend was only playing a prank. He fooled his teammate into signing for the Red Devils and went on to play for Barcelona in Spain instead. Well, as fate would have it, Kleberson was bound to play with a superstar, be it Ronaldinho or Cristiano Ronaldo..
#3 Eric Djemba-Djemba
Eric Djemba-Djemba was a disappointing transfer for United. A huge chunk of the the club's fanbase often lists him under the worst transfers list their club ever made. The Cameroon international arrived for a fee of €4.5 million and stayed for a brief one-and-a-half years. He made 39 appearances in the midfield but was hardly able to convince the Manchester United fans that he could be a regular.
Djemba-Djemba was on the bench when Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut for the Red Devils. Before retiring, the defensive midfielder represented 13 different clubs across 10 countries including the Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC. The player has always been thankful to SAF for bringing him to United because that changed his life.
#2 Chris Eagles
The most recent player to retire from this list is former Manchester United winger Chris Eagles. He made his debut in a League Cup game where the club defeated rivals Leeds United. Eddie Johnson, who wasn't much of a success himself, debuted in the same game.
It is quite interesting when you imagine the number of talented prospects Cristiano Ronaldo was pooled with in his first season at Manchester United. Eagles took quite the fall in standards. After starting in the Premier League with the Red Devils, he moved to Championship clubs like Burnley and Bolton Wanderers.
In his final years, he played his trade in League Two before finally retiring in 2020. His rise through the ranks at Manchester United was followed by his contribution in the FA Youth Cup triumph of 2003. A trophy that the Red Devils were favorites to win in those days, but have hardly come close to winning in the last decade or so.
Eagles has had quite the fall from grace with the 36-year old being presented in the Manchester Magistrates' Court a few months back. The winger was found drunk in the driver's seat of his Audi, three times over the legal alcohol limit.
At 36, Cristiano Ronaldo is carrying the Red Devils into the Champions League and trying to influence the culture at Old Trafford.
#1 David Bellion
Hindsight is a strong teacher and in the case of David Bellion it did not prove to be the kindest of all things. After his performance in a Manchester United shirt, fans branded him an immediate flop. Some went on to say that he did not deserve to play for the club.
Well, it may seem like there were completely contrasting figures in the United camp in the 2003-04 season. Where fans considered Cristiano Ronaldo a blessing to have, there were enough figures that they did not like. Manchester United were even accused of tapping up Bellion in 2003 when his contract expired with Sunderland.
It is truly baffling to see how badly they miscalculated this one. The French striker only made 40 appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, where he scored eight times and assisted another two. He was soon shipped to France, where Bellion did win the Ligue 1 title with Bordeaux in 2007/08. The striker produced his career-best figures of 12 goals and four assists that season.
Quite clearly he was not of the same mold as Cristiano Ronaldo.