Let me take you back to 13 years ago – January 30, 2008.
Flo Rida’s Low (with T-Pain) was number one on the charts, no one knew what “The Inbetweeners” was yet and Gordon Brown was the nation’s frontman. Oh, and Cristiano Ronaldo had also just scored one of the most iconic and unstoppable free kicks in Premier League history.
The goal came in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford over a Portsmouth side who, at the start of the proceedings, were ninth in the league with a phenomenal away record of seven wins in 12. But Harry Redknapp’s Pompey was not up to a Ronaldo. – inspired Manchester United who would end up winning a brace in the Premier League and Champions League that year.
Barely ten minutes into the match, Ronaldo had broken through and finished calmly ahead of David James to open the scoring and put his team forward. But the climax of the match would come just three minutes later.
Free kicks are never easy to execute, especially when they’re around 30 yards from goal against England’s number one goalkeeper. But when you’re Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s a professional risk to make the seemingly impossible appearance too easy, and in doing so shock the world.
The Portuguese wizard was then the reigning PFA Player of the Year at the time and had already shown his talent on set pieces on several occasions. He had scored goals for fun throughout the 2007/08 campaign, on the verge of scoring a ridiculous 31 league goals – including the famous free kick against Pompey.
The Portuguese star puts the ball down as he usually does, the valve facing where his laces will inevitably crash into. Then he took one, two, three, four big steps back and took his famous position.
It is impossible to know what may have been going through James ‘head at this precise moment, but it could have been something like:’Oh shit.
As Martin Atkinson whistled, the noise from the Old Trafford crowd subsided and Ronaldo took a few quick steps towards the ball, before unleashing one of the most beautiful strikes you’ve ever seen.
The ball left Ronaldo’s boot like a rocket and headed for James’ net with fierce power, a spread and a dive – all that we associate with a classic “Ronaldo free kick” – giving no luck at the wall, before finding its way into the top corner of Pompey’s goal.
If you have any doubts about the quality of the free kick, just watch James’ reaction as the ball whistled past him in his top corner before he even knew what had happened. The Pompey goalkeeper could do nothing but admire the strike – which, you imagine, if on a freeway, would have picked up three points of a different kind – and put on an air of resignation as he turned to his defenders.
The Blues would eventually take revenge on the Red Devils in March of that year, knocking them out of the FA Cup quarterfinals at Old Trafford, but that iconic free-kick that lit up a cold January night, in the minds of most people will live in memory much longer.