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Rio Ferdinand blames ex-Man United team-mate for gifting Ronaldo a hat-trick for Real Madrid in 2003

Rio Ferdinand blames one of his ex-Man United team-mates for allowing Ronaldo to hit a hat-trick against him as he re-watches their Champions League defeat by Real Madrid in 2003

  • Real Madrid eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League in 2003 
  • Rio Ferdinand blames a former team-mate for allowing Ronaldo to score three 
  • The ex-defender reflected on the game, his performance, and that of a colleague

Rio Ferdinand has hit out at a former Manchester United team-mate for allowing Ronaldo to score three times in their 2003 Champions League elimination. 

Real Madrid had won the first leg 3-1 before heading to Old Trafford, where they were blown away by the dominant goalscoring of the Brazilian legend – who was substituted off to a rapturous reception from both sets of fans.

While Man United won the game 4-3 on the night, it meant they exited the competition at the quarter-final stage, and now Ferdinand has had an opportunity to reflect on the game, and the performances of himself and his colleagues. 

In the video from BT Sport, shared on the social media platform TikTok, Ferdinand has admitted that he was outplayed by Ronaldo on the night, but also questioned the team’s goalkeeping and defensive qualities as they conceded three times.

Ferdinand was also fuming that the Brazilian’s performance had warranted a positive response from the Man United fans, when he was taken off the field in the 67th minute, with legends like Zinedine Zidane and Guti also in the side. 

Rio Ferdinand hit out as Manchester United let Ronaldo score three goals at Old Trafford

Rio Ferdinand hit out as Manchester United let Ronaldo score three goals at Old Trafford

Man United were 3-1 down from the first leg, so a one-goal win at home was not enough

Man United were 3-1 down from the first leg, so a one-goal win at home was not enough

While there were a few problems with the side as their defensive deficiencies were shown on the night, Ferdinand had some particularly probing questions for goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. 

For Ronaldo’s opener, Guti gutted the United defence before squaring to the Brazilian. Ferdinand said: ‘It’s not a great goal. It ain’t. I don’t care. He knows what he’s against, he knows he’s got to take it early, and he does.

‘Barthez, he can only go in the near post. I’ve got him where I want him, going away from goal. He can only go near post… Fabien? Fabien, man! We need to go back over this.’

On dissecting the second goal, set up by Zinedine Zidane, Ferdinand held his hands up to admit his error. He said: ‘A great run. He’s in the six-yard box. There’s no defender within touching distance. My fault, man. I take that. It was me. I take that.’

Just before the hour mark, Ronaldo sealed his hat-trick with a stunning 25-yard drive past Barthez. 

However, while admitting some responsibility for Ronaldo’s third too, Ferdinand was back on Barthez’s tail as well, noting that the goalkeeper was off his line. 

‘We’re dropping off,’ Ferdinand said. ‘I’ve got to get up. I’ve got to squeeze the play a bit. But… Fabien, what are you doing?!

Fabien Barthez was criticised by Ferdinand for two of Ronaldo's goals on the night in 2003

Fabien Barthez was criticised by Ferdinand for two of Ronaldo’s goals on the night in 2003

Ronaldo was given a rapturous reception by both sets of fans when he was substituted off

Ronaldo was given a rapturous reception by both sets of fans when he was substituted off

‘I’m not having it. Fabien’s on his six-yard box, by the way. He’s been lobbed.’

He also said that he couldn’t sleep after this night in 2003 – and it led to him changing from a No. 6 shirt in his debut season to the No. 5 shirt the next. 

‘I weren’t the same player. We won the league, but I weren’t the player I became,’ Ferdinand revealed. 

While that Champions League season ended in failure for Manchester United, Ferdinand was able to lift the elite European club trophy with the side that won in Moscow in 2008.  


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