Inside story on Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘greatest season in Premier League history’
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In his extraordinary 19-year career, Cristiano Ronaldo has cemented a legacy as one of the greatest footballers to ever live; sweeping home goal after goal, trophy after trophy, and record after record while representing some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
The Portuguese is a legitimate contender in the GOAT debate largely because of his iconic spell at Real Madrid, where he scored an unfathomable 450 goals in 438 games while claiming four Champions League crowns, as many Ballon d’Or awards and two Spanish titles.
Yet just before sealing a then-world-record £80million switch to the Bernabeu in 2009, Ronaldo blitzed his way to arguably the finest individual campaign the Premier League has ever seen.
After playing a starring role in Manchester United’s first title triumph since 2003, Ronaldo scooped the PFA Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards in 2007 and was slowly emerging as one of the biggest stars in world football.
Nevertheless, the winger didn’t exactly pick up where he left off at the start of the 2007/08 season, earning himself a straight red card in United's second outing at Portsmouth for appearing to headbutt Richard Hughes.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who issued his star man with a fine despite admitting he was provoked at Fratton Park, said: “He's fallen for it. You have to have a bit of calmness.
"You have to remind yourself you're a better player than they are.”
Ronaldo served a three-match ban for the headbutt and came back a new man, netting his first goal of the season against former club Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.
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In the end, it’s fair to say that maiden strike got the ball rolling for him in a truly unforgettable campaign.
The Madeira-born star went on to register another 41 goals in all competitions for United, with 31 coming in the Premier League.
And there were some special ones along the way: the bullet header in their Champions League quarter-final win over Roma; crucial goals in battles with Liverpool and Arsenal; another header to break the deadlock in the Champions League final; and not to mention that gravity-defying free-kick against Portsmouth.
The latter remains one of the most awe-inspiring set-pieces of all time, with the dip and swerve that befuddled Portsmouth goalkeeper David James sparking nationwide debate.
A number of theories were put forward as to how Ronaldo implemented such a fierce bend on the ball, from his standing stance to striking it on the valve.
“The secret? I will not reveal it, for I would be giving a trump card to my opponents,” he cooly quipped at the time.
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However, Ronaldo’s 2007/08 season does not merely go down in history because of the aesthetics or importance of his goals.
His sensational return of 31 goals in 34 Premier League appearances meant he averaged a goal every 88.6 minutes. At the age of 22, that was quite frankly astonishing.
To put those numbers into context, a 27-year-old Luis Suarez averaged a goal every 95.5 minutes when he set the world alight at Liverpool in 2013/14.
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At a younger age Ronaldo trumped Suarez’s average and, unlike the Reds striker, inspired United to another title that season. He also went one better than his previous season by adding the Champions League and Ballon d’Or award to his increasingly-stellar collection of prizes.
He did miss a penalty in the European Cup showpiece, but CR7 made the initial breakthrough for United in that final against Chelsea and was eventually saved by his team-mates when they toppled their Premier League rivals on spot-kicks.
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Only eight players have netted 30 or more goals in Premier League history. Six of them are strikers.
Ronaldo became the first winger to ever achieve the feat and the second-youngest to do so. It was the year he truly established himself as a world-footballing juggernaut.
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- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Manchester United FC
- Premier League
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