May 13, 2021

Man Utd

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s ultimate XI as Man United great Paul Scholes misses out

6 min read

Cristiano Ronaldo is universally regarded as one of the best players of all time – and depending in what camp you lay in, the greatest.

After emerging as one of the hottest properties in European football at Sporting Lisbon, he signed for Manchester United in 2003 and the rest, as they say, is history.

It took him a little while to settle in at Old Trafford, but once Ronaldo did that, he became one of the world’s elite players, scoring 84 goals in the Premier League alone.

He took his game to even greater heights at Real Madrid following a then-world record £80million move, where the Portuguese compiled a simply breath-taking record of 311 goals in 268 La Liga starts.

Now with Italian giants Juventus, the 36-year-old has won seven league titles across three counties – in addition to five Champions League crowns, four of which came in Madrid.


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Also a Euro 2016 champion with Portugal, Ronaldo has played with and against the great and good of the modern game, but which star names make his ultimate XI?

Here, we take a closer look at the United and Real players who featured alongside Ronaldo most often, courtesy of statistics provided by football website Transfermarkt.

Indeed, this is not necessarily the best XI to have played with Ronaldo who we have omitted from the line-up, but instead a list of his most common colleagues at Old Trafford and the Bernabeu.

Spoiler alert, there is no room for fellow United great and Class of 92 graduate Paul Scholes.

The rules

  • The XI is made up of players who made the most appearances alongside our featured player or for our featured manager. We’re not looking for an overall ‘Best’ XI, and the player/manager himself isn’t in it.
  • For a player, the appearance numbers are based on the time they spent on the pitch at the same time as our main man, factoring in both club and international level.
  • This isn’t necessarily the eleven players who’ve spent the most time on the pitch with/for him, just the eleven that would fit into a working team.
  • We’re not going to come up with a Garth Crooksesque formation, but we might name subs if we feel like it.
  • All minutes played and appearances stats are courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk.
  • Don’t get angry in the comments section.

Iker Casillas

Games played with Ronaldo: 228

A mainstay of the Real side for close to 15 years, the World Cup and two-time European Championship winner held the number one jersey for the majority of Ronaldo’s historic spell at the Bernabeu.

They featured 228 times together on the team-sheet and won three Champions League winners’ medals as part of an iconic Madrid line-up during a hugely-memorable decade for Spanish football.

John O’Shea

Games played with Ronaldo: 215

Perhaps a surprise inclusion here, the former United and Republic of Ireland defender was a more than useful utility man under the club’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

You can bet that his 215 appearances alongside Ronaldo came in a number of positions. O’Shea was an unused substitute, though, as a Ronaldo-inspired United beat Chelsea to the top European crown in 2008.

Sergio Ramos

Games played with Ronaldo: 339

Similar to Casillas, the current Spain captain is synonymous with the success of Real, alongside Ronaldo, and also the national team in the 2010s.

A huge percentage of the Portuguese icon’s games in La Liga came in tandem with Ramos, who remains at the Bernabeu 16 years on from his switch from Sevilla. The tally Ramos and Ronaldo share is bettered only by one other player.

Pepe

Games played with Ronaldo: 324

A former team-mate for club and country, hot-headed Pepe was an almost-constant feature at the heart of Real’s defence alongside Ramos, even following the arrival of Raphael Varane from Lens in 2011.

Before helping Portugal conquer Europe at the 2016 championships, Pepe and Ronaldo had featured 324 times in the famous white shirt of Madrid. Nobody knows Ronaldo better.

Rio Ferdinand

Games played with Ronaldo: 221



Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand played 221 games together during a six-year association with Manchester United.

Captain on that famous night in Moscow, which came 12 months before Ronaldo’s high-profile and big-money exit to the Spanish capital, the 2008 Champions League final was, almost certainly, their most iconic game together in a six-year association which brought a further 220 outings.

Ferdinand is the second of four United players on this list. Can you guess the others?

Marcelo

Games played with Ronaldo: 332

His friendship with Ronaldo is eclipsed only by their devastating partnership on the left-hand side of a staggeringly dangerous Real line-up that also included Gareth Bale and others.

If Ronaldo didn’t get you cutting inside, then one of his closest allies, Marcelo, almost certainly would on the overlap. He edges out fellow left-back Patrice Evra (121) by a whopping 211 games here.

Luka Modric

Games played with Ronaldo: 222

As the only player to have broken the Lionel Messi-Ronaldo monopoly on the Ballon d’Or since 2007, the Croatian remains held in the highest-regard.

Upwards of 220 games together in Madrid brought 17 direct goal involvements, but like the following man on this list, former Tottenham midfielder Modric is often the provider of the pass before the assist. Only so much can be taken from statistics alone.

Xabi Alonso

Games played with Ronaldo: 208

Only 14 games shy of Ronaldo’s tally with Modric, the trio played for two seasons together before Alonso decided to move on to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in 2014.

Despite playing fewer matches with Ronaldo than Modric, their total minutes on the pitch together remains higher – 16,692 to 16,459.

Ryan Giggs

Games played with Ronaldo: 204




A man who needs no introduction to United fans, the Wales manager’s playing career at Old Trafford spanned 24 years and resulted in a record 963 appearances that will, almost certainly, stand the test of time.

Only a quarter of those came alongside Ronaldo, but what a memorable 204 matches they were. Giggs was also involved as United overcame Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 Champions League showpiece.

Wayne Rooney

Games played with Ronaldo: 206

One ‘minor’ disagreement on international duty at the 2006 World Cup aside, the Rooney-Ronaldo was a partnership that sent shivers down the spines of Premier League defenders between 2004, when Rooney signed, and Ronaldo’s departure in 2009.

Indeed, for those five years, they were unrivalled as an attacking force – directly combining for 25 goals as players such as Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov complemented them in United’s prolific forward line.

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Karim Benzema

Games played with Ronaldo: 342

No player has featured more alongside Ronaldo than Benzema – and nobody to more devastating effect. With the likes of Bale in tow, these two played 342 games in tandem at Madrid, totalling 22,355 minutes where Spanish defences didn’t get a moment’s rest – as highlighted by 76 direct goal involvements and a points per game ratio of 2.27.

Benzema was often ignored by the limelight, but there was no better foil for Ronaldo in nine years at Madrid.

Substitutes: Alvaro Arbeloa (201 appearances), Raphael Varane (199 appearances), Isco (188 appearances), Paul Scholes (183 appearances), Gonzalo Higuain (180 appearances), Sami Khedira (174 appearances), Edwin van der Sar (167 appearances).

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