Where are they now? The Man Utd Xl from Cristiano Ronaldo’s CL debut

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Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo battles past the challenge from Stuttgart's Imre Szabics.

Manchester United‘s Cristiano Ronaldo has become the all-time leading Champions League appearance-maker, 18 years after making his debut in the competition. 

Ronaldo played for Sporting Lisbon in a Champions League qualifier but made his official group stage debut in United’s 2-1 defeat at Stuttgart in October 2003.

We’ve taken a look at the United team from that game to see where they all are today.

GK: Tim Howard

Howard also joined United in 2003 but his Old Trafford stint will always be remembered for that gaffe against Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the Champions League.

The goalkeeper was eventually replaced by Edwin van der Sar and moved to Everton in 2006, where he went on to make over 400 appearances.

After 10 years at Goodison Park, he returned to his native America with Colorado Rapids and Memphis 901 before hanging up his gloves in December 2020.

Alongside his role as a sporting director and minority owner of Memphis 901, the 42-year-old also works as an analyst for the Premier League games on NBC Sports.

RB: Gary Neville

Neville remained a United regular for a few more years before a series of injury problems eventually took their toll. After an incredibly shit – yet invincible – final season, he announced his retirement in February 2011.

The 46-year-old has since established himself as one of the best pundits on TV, forming a brilliant bromance with former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports.

He also had a very brief spell in charge of Valencia in 2015-16, but he’d probably prefer it if we didn’t talk about that.

CB: Rio Ferdinand (Diego Forlan, 82)

Ferdinand famously missed the second half of the 2003-04 season after being handed an eight-month ban for failing to take a drugs test.

Alongside Ronaldo, the centre-back went on to become a key component of their next great side, winning three straight Premier League titles and the Champions League between 2007 and 2009.

He saw out his playing career with an unsuccessful spell at QPR and can now be found as a pundit on BT Sport.

Forlan left United in 2004 before proving his class on the continent. He took his first steps into management in 2020 but has already been sacked by both Penarol and Atenas.

READ: Rio Ferdinand: I don’t think about my achievements, only what I didn’t win

CB: Mikael Silvestre

Silvestre made over 350 appearances for United but fell down the pecking order following the arrivals of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra in 2006.

The defender made the switch to Arsenal in 2008 but was clearly past his best during his two-year spell with the Gunners.

Stints at Werder Bremen and Portland Timbers followed before he called time on his career with Indian side Chennaiyin in 2014. The 44-year-old has since worked as director of football at Rennes between 2015 and 2016.

LB: John O’Shea (Quinton Fortune, 65)

Having played against Ronaldo in that pre-season friendly a few months earlier, O’Shea was probably just relieved to see the winger on his team.

After leaving Old Trafford in 2011, he played for a further eight years at Sunderland and Reading before hanging up his boots.

The former Republic of Ireland international returned to the Madejski as a first-team coach but left the role in 2021 and is now planning to complete his UEFA Pro License.

READ: A tribute to John O’Shea, Manchester United’s great court jester

RW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Darren Fletcher, 90)

Ronaldo had to wait another three and a half years before finally scoring his first Champions League goal but hasn’t looked back since.

The Portugal international now holds the record for the most appearances, most goals and most wins in the competition’s history.

He’s since had spells at Real Madrid and Juventus but returned to Old Trafford for a second spell in 2021 and will be hoping to add to the five Champions Leagues he has already won.

Fletcher went on to be a mainstay for United before an unfortunate illness decimated his final few years at his club. He returned to Old Trafford in a coaching capacity in 2020 and has since been appointed as their technical director.

CM: Phil Neville

Unlike his brother Gary, Phil decided to leave Old Trafford in 2005 and spent the final eight years of his career at Everton.

He then moved into coaching and has enjoyed some success in the dugout, leading the England Women’s side to the SheBelieves Cup and a fourth place at the 2019 World Cup.

After stepping down from his role with the Lionesses in 2021, the 44-year-old was appointed manager of MLS side Inter Miami, who are part-owned by David Beckham.

CM: Roy Keane

Keane left Old Trafford under a cloud of controversy in November 2005 after criticising his team-mates and falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson.

The midfielder retired after a brief stint at Celtic and enjoyed a great start to his managerial career, helping Sunderland win promotion to the Premier League.

But he later resigned after falling out with Ellis Short and hasn’t worked as a head coach since leaving Ipswich Town in 2011.

Fortunately for us, we now get to experience his uniquely terrifying brand of punditry on a weekly basis.

READ: 15 of the best quotes on Roy Keane: ‘He’d rather die of exhaustion than lose’

LW: Ryan Giggs

One of the stalwarts of this side by the time Ronaldo arrived, Giggs had already won eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League by 2003.

The winger remarkably remained a regular in the side for 11 more years after this game, going on to retire in 2014 after nearly 1000 appearances in his one-club career.

After a short spell as United’s interim boss, he then spent two seasons as Louis van Gaal’s assistant at Old Trafford. The 47-year-old then began his own managerial career with the Welsh national team in 2018 but was suspended from the role ahead of Euro 2020 after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend.

AM: Paul Scholes

Scholes started his career as a goal-scoring midfielder before later turning into a deep-lying playmaker who dictated the tempo of the game.

The former England international retired in 2011, only to return six months later and add one more league title to his CV in 2012-13.

Despite being renowned as a man who barely spoke to the media during his playing career, he certainly isn’t shy of sharing his opinions as a pundit.

The 46-year-old had a very brief spell in charge of Oldham in 2019 also co-owns Salford City along with Giggs, Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers.

Paul Scholes celebrates after scoring for Manchester United.

READ: A tribute to young Paul Scholes (he scores goals) at Manchester United

CF: Ruud van Nistelrooy

After Ferguson put his faith in Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, Van Nistelrooy was shipped off to Real Madrid in the summer of 2006.

The striker won the Pichichi award for top scorer in his debut season at the club and helped Madrid reclaim their place back at the top of La Liga.

But injuries curtailed his latter years in the Spanish capital, and he later retired after spells at Hamburg and Malaga.

Van Nistelrooy now works as the manager of the PSV Eindhoven reserve team and is also Frank de Boer’s assistant with the Netherlands.


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