One of the biggest football stories of the last few days of August was the surprise return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United.
So with Ronaldo set to make his second Old Trafford bow this weekend, I dug out one of the best shirts United wore during his first spell for a special My Favourite Shirts post!
The Manchester United home shirt from the 2006/07 season, made by Nike (their third home kit for the club) and the first shirt to feature AIG as the main sponsor.
It was worn throughout the season which saw United reclaim the Premier League title for first time in four years and reach the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Semi-Finals.
The inspiration behind the design came from the 50th anniversary of United’s first participation in the European Cup – the white v-neck and cuffs are instantly associated with the Busby Babes, who spearheaded the club’s European campaigns until the tragedy of the Munich air crash.
The white shield around the badge has a more recent origin, resembling the smaller shield made from reflective fabric which featured on the club’s European shirt from 1998-2000, worn of course on “that night in Barcelona” when United beat Bayern Munich with two injury time goals and won the Treble.
The body of the shirt is a lovely shade of red and the gold trim throughout lends it a real air of class.
Of course, the real reason I’m featuring this kit is that it was the one worn by Cristiano Ronaldo in his real breakout season.
Ronaldo showed lots of promise in his first three seasons at Old Trafford but this tended to get overshadowed by his showboating and occasional petulance. The fallout from an England-Portugal clash at the 2006 World Cup had also seemingly put his future at the club at risk. His infamous wink after club teammate Wayne Rooney had been sent off in the game made him public enemy number one with the tabloids (and allegedly Rooney as well) and despite his fine performances throughout the tournament, many thought Sir Alex Ferguson would be better off cutting his losses on him.
In the first game of the season, the two players combined to devastating effect as United defeated Fulham 5-1, Rooney setting up Ronaldo’s goal which made it 4-0 after 19 minutes. United never looked back, hitting the top of the table at the end of September and eventually winning the title with a six point advantage over Chelsea.
One of his most iconic moments of the season came while wearing this shirt in the reverse fixture against Fulham at the end of February. With United being held 1-1 in the 87th minute, Ronaldo picked up the ball inside his own half and sprinted down the left wing leaving his markers trailing in his wake before cutting inside and drilling the ball into the net.
And probably the shirt’s most famous outing was the home leg of United’s Champions League quarter-final against Roma. After losing the first leg 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, it looked like being a potentially difficult night for United, but they simply swept aside their opponents in a 7-1 victory.
That was also the night that Ronaldo scored his first Champions League goals. Given that he currently holds the record for most goals in the history of the competition it’s hard to believe that before his brace against Roma he had gone 26 matches in Europe without finding the net.
He finished the season with his first league title, a clean sweep of individual awards (PFA Player and Young Player of the Year, the Football Writers Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season) and 23 goals in all competitions, laying the foundations for his truly extraordinary 2007/08 season.
Unfortunately, he would be doing it in a different shirt. Up until this point, United had always maintained a two-year home kit cycle in the Premier League era but the summer of 2007 saw Nike launch a more modern, minimalist design for the Red Devils, which would go on to be worn as they won both the Premier League and Champions League in 2008.
But it’s this one with its blend of retro sensibilities and modern touches that I really like. It’s actually the last United home shirt I bought as well due to the combination of the ever-increasing prices of replica shirts and a series of underwhelming designs diminishing my enthusiasm for buying them.