Sheffield United's Derek Geary remembers the day he was tasked with man-marking Ronaldo for Manchester United
“Cristiano Ronaldo’s jersey is framed in my mam and dad’s house now," the Irishman said.
"It’s a good one to show people. I show my son the clips on YouTube but he cheers for Ronaldo instead of me.”
The former Sheffield United defender played twice against the Portuguese legend during his time at Manchester United, in 2006/07. The Blades lost both games that season against their Manchester namesakes, but Geary takes particular pride from the face that a young Ronaldo failed to get on the scoresheet on either occasion.
"I was looking to get his jersey but he headed off down the tunnel straight away. Apparently he was still fuming over missing a chance," Geary told the42.ie
"As a fellow full-back, I asked Gary Neville for his instead but he said he had already promised it to Keith Gillespie.
“Anyway, I just left it then but I was in the dressing room later when Brian Kidd - who was our assistant manager - came into me. He said ‘I’ve just been speaking to Gary Neville, he’s sorry he couldn’t give you his jersey but he got you Ronaldo’s instead’ - so that worked out quite well!"
Geary, the former Sheffield Wednesday defender, held his own in the Premier League before a heartbreaking final-day relegation after losing at home to Wigan Athletic.
“In both of the games [against Manchester United] I had to man-mark Ronaldo, who actually got the Ballon d’Or the following year,” Geary added.
“One of the games was on Monday Night Football and I just remember thinking that I wish this wasn’t live on telly because my mates are going to hammer me after I get ripped up by Ronaldo.
"When we got to the ground, Neil Warnock said to me ‘I feel sorry for you having to mark Ronaldo in front of millions of people’. That was one of the things he was great at – making light of a situation to ease the pressure, because he knew I would have been feeling it.
“The amount of goals Ronaldo has scored is incredible, but at least I can always say he didn’t score any in the games I played against him. For a player of his calibre not to score in the three hours I played against him is something I’d look back on with a bit of pride.
“You’re trying your best to get in his face and make it uncomfortable for him. You can’t stop players like him, you can only limit them, whether it’s me or the best defender in the world. They’re going to get opportunities but fortunately he didn’t take any in those games. It was a struggle but I didn’t feel like I was totally out of my depth or anything.”