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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 5 June, 2020

Ronaldinho had everyone thinking 'what if' after thrilling the crowds at Old Trafford yesterday

The Brazilian conjured a brilliantly-entertaining performance in David Beckham’s Unicef charity game.

Image: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

RONALDINHO SHOULD’VE BEEN a Manchester United player.

It was the summer of 2003 and the Premier League side only wanted one man to replace the departed David Beckham.

United were in pole position to secure the then-23-year-old’s signature and when Sir Alex Ferguson left for his summer holiday, he presumed the final details would be effortlessly taken care of.

But, Ronaldinho’s employers, Paris St Germain, were left fuming after a verbally-agreed deal with United’s chief executive Peter Kenyon was followed up with an official faxed offer that was £8m lower.

Angered by what they perceived as United going back on their word, PSG encouraged Barcelona to re-enter the bidding process and the rest is history.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Manchester United v AC Milan - Old Trafford Ronaldinho, then with AC Milan, in action against Manchester United in March 2010. Source: Martin Rickett/PA Archive/PA Images

Ferguson was furious that the club’s principal target was missed and Kenyon didn’t survive much longer at Old Trafford, moving to Chelsea later that year.

Still, the botched deal has always irritated Ferguson and United supporters. A thrill-a-minute player, Ronaldinho was an effortlessly-creative and imaginative personality – a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But more than that, he was a winner. During his time at Barca, he won two league titles, a Champions League, was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2005 and was named FIFA’s World Player of the Year two years running.

So, to see him glide across the Old Trafford pitch during the Unicef charity game on Saturday had many wondering what might have been had circumstances played out differently more than a decade before.

There was a no-look backheel to set Patrick Kluivert up in the first-half only for the Dutchman to have strayed offside.


Later, there was a fantastic, one-touch attack that he started with a neat flick and finished with a shot that David Seaman did well to turn around the far post.


And, as a testament to his fun-loving style, Ronaldinho tried to re-create his famous World Cup strike from 2002 by chipping Seaman again.

He didn’t miss by much.

‘Manchester United don’t need a philosophy, they need attacking football & goals’, says Ginger Prince

‘I was constantly called a 5-a-side footballer because I wanted to keep possession of the ball’

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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