Cristiano accorded ultimate accolade

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed up his words of praise by handing Cristiano Ronaldo the No 7 shirt previously worn by one David Beckham.

Ferguson has described the 18-year-old, who along with the Brazilian World Cup winner Kleberson formed part of yesterday's £18m announcement, as "one of the most exciting young players I have ever seen".

Already there is huge expectation surrounding the youngster, who has cost United £12.24m despite making only 25 first-team appearances for Sporting Lisbon. The United staff who have seen him believe he could have as big an impact as Wayne Rooney, and Ferguson said his players pleaded with him to sign the teenager following last week's 3-1 defeat in Lisbon.

"In the dressing-room after the match last week the lads were talking about him constantly," Ferguson said. "On the plane back home from the game they urged me to sign him - that's how highly they rated him."

Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival has overshadowed Kleberson's, even though the Brazilian is more likely to start for United when they begin the defence of their title against Bolton on Saturday.

The South American has been earmarked as a replacement for Juan Sebastian Veron, and Ferguson said: "One of the reasons we sold Seba Veron was because we knew we were getting Kleberson - that shows how highly we regard his talent."

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