Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan almost applauded Ronaldo at Old Trafford

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan relives the night when Ronaldo scored a hat-trick for Real Madrid at Old Trafford back in 2003.

You don’t need to play in the Premier League to be recognised as one of the best players of all time, and Ronaldo is a prime example.

Towards the end of his career, the Brazilian may have become the butt of many jokes because of his weight issues, but in his prime, he was one of the most lethal and clinical strikers in the world.

Ronaldo never played in the Premier League, but the former AC Milan and Inter Milan forward left a huge impression on English football when he scored a hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford in April 2003.

Then playing for Spanish giants Real Madrid, Ronaldo netted all three goals in Los Blancos4-3 defeat to United in the second leg of their quarter-final tie.

Madrid had won the first leg 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu, and a 4-3 defeat in the second leg was still enough for them to clinch the tie 6-5 on aggregate and progress to the semi-finals of Europe’s biggest club competition.

Ronaldo opened the scoring for Madrid after just 12 minutes and then added two more goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

It was one of the best hat-tricks ever scored in the history of the competition, and the Brazilian understandably got a huge applause when he was substituted in the 67th minute.

Diego Forlan was as unused substitute for United that evening, and like everyone else at Old Trafford, he too could not help admiring what Ronaldo did.

The Uruguay international striker has now revealed that he almost felt like he should applaud Ronaldo when he was replaced by Santiago Solari.

‘I sat on the bench when he scored a hat-trick for Real Madrid at Old Trafford in 2003’, the 35-year-old told told FourFourTwo magazine. ‘All the fans applauded when he was substituted that night and I was tempted to do so myself, but that wouldn’t have been right’.

Madrid failed to retain their Champions League crown that season as they were knocked out by Juventus in the semi-finals, while Forlan left United in the summer of 2004 after failing to make any significant impact at Old Trafford.

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