Manchester United FC

Anatomy of a goal: Cristiano Ronaldo's sublime free kick against Portsmouth

Max Parsons
Jan 30, 2021, 7:30 PM GMT
Moments after the magic
Moments after the magic / PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images
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Let me take you back to 13 years ago - to January 30 2008.

Low by Flo Rida (featuring T-Pain) was at number one in the charts, no one knew what 'The Inbetweeners' was yet and Gordon Brown was the country's leader. 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 victory at Old Trafford over a Portsmouth side who, at the beginning of proceedings, sat ninth in the league with a phenomenal away record of seven wins in 12. But Harry Redknapp's Pompey were no match for a Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United who would eventually go on to win a Premier League and Champions League double that year.

Just ten minutes into the match, Ronaldo had broken through and finished calmly past David James to open the scoring and put his side ahead. But the highlight of the game would happen just three minutes later.

Free kicks are never easy to execute, especially when they're around 30 yards away from goal against England's number one goalkeeper. Bu when you're Cristiano Ronaldo, it's an occupational hazard to make the seemingly impossible look all too easy and, in doing so, shock the world.

The Portuguese wizard was the reigning PFA Player of the Year at the time and had already showcased his talent from set pieces on a number of occasions. He'd been bagging goals for fun throughout the 2007/08 campaign, on his way to scoring a ridiculous 31 league goals - one of which being the famous free kick against Pompey.

The Portuguese star lay the ball down as he usually did, with the valve facing where his laces are inevitably going to crash through. Then, he took one, two, three, four long strides back and assumed his famous stance.

It's impossible to know what may have been rushing through James' head at that precise moment, but it might have been something a little like: 'oh, s**t'.

As Martin Atkinson blew his whistle, the noise from the Old Trafford crowd died down and Ronaldo took a few quick steps up to the ball, before unleashing one of the finest strikes you're ever likely to see.

The ball left Ronaldo's boot like a rocket and arrowed towards James' net with ferocious power, swerve and dip - everything we associate with a classic 'Ronaldo free kick' - giving the wall zero chance, before finding its way into the top corner of Pompey's goal.

Wayne Rooney celebrating with Cristiano Ronaldo
Wayne Rooney celebrating with Cristiano Ronaldo / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

If you're in any doubt of just how good the free kick was, you've only to watch James' reaction as the ball whistled past him into his top corner before he even knew what had happened. The Pompey goalkeeper could do nothing but admire the strike - which, you'd imagine, if on a motorway, would've picked up three points of a different kind - and assume a look of resignation as he turned back to his defenders.

The Blues would eventually exert their revenge on the Red Devils in March of that year, knocking them out of the FA Cup quarter finals at Old Trafford, but that iconic free kick which lit up a cold January night, in most people's minds, will live far longer in the memory.

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