A very good year

Winning the Ballon d'Or award has topped off what has been an incredible year for Manchester United's midfield maestro Cristiano Ronaldo.

Not since 2001 has the Barclays Premier League boasted the winner of the prestigious award, when Michael Owen picked up the trophy for his achievements with former club Liverpool, writes Claire Harmer.

The award, which amounts to being named European Footballer of the Year, is presented by French football magazine 'France Football,' and is given to the player considered to have excelled most over the past 12 months.

The winner is voted for by football journalists around the world, deciding from a shortlist of 50 players. Each journalist chooses their top five players, awarding them points from one through to five. When the votes are counted, it is the player who has the most points who is named the winner.

Having been disappointed to have lost out to AC Milan's Kaka last year, Portugal international Ronaldo more than earned his accolade with the contribution he made to United's 2007/08 campaign. On winning the award he said: "It is one of the most beautiful days of my life. To gain this trophy is something I dreamed of as a child. Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it.

Even better

"I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season. But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates.

"This (trophy) is one that I want to win again because it is so good. Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself, 'I want to be even better'."

Ronaldo enjoyed a double trophy winning season with the Red Devils, picking up his second successive Barclays Premier League winner's medal, and the Champions League trophy. After scoring an unbelievable 42 goals in all competitions, breaking several long-standing records along the way, Ronaldo has received praise from all corners of the football community.

Here, we take a look back at some of his highlights over the past 12 months:

Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United (12th January)

In this comprehensive victory, Ronaldo got the New Year off to a great start, claiming his first hat-trick for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

Reading 2-0 United (19th January)

Just a week later, he added a last minute winner to Wayne Rooney's opener to hand United a 2-0 win away to relegation strugglers Reading and equal his personal goal-scoring record for the whole of the previous season, with 23.

Portsmouth 0-2 United (30th January)

A breathtaking strike directly from a free-kick completed a stunning brace at Fratton Park, topping off an impressive month for the 22-year old. After the match, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "David Beckham's strike rate was pretty good, Eric Cantona used to take them too but Ronaldo's strike rate is phenomenal."

United 2-0 Bolton Wanderers (19th March)

Against Bolton, not only was the midfielder handed the honour of captaining the United side for the first time, he also scored both goals. His second strike was his 33rd of the campaign, settinng a new club record of goals scored by a midfielder in a single season, bettering the previous record set by the legendary George Best.

Wigan Athletic 0-2 United (11th May)

With the race for the Barclays Premier League title down to the last match of the season, Ronaldo scored United's opener from the spot. His first-half strike, coupled with a Ryan Giggs goal meant Chelsea's draw with Bolton was not enough to see the Blues triumph. United claimed their second successive league trophy and were eagerly awaiting the chance to do the double over their rivals with the Champions League final in Moscow a matter of days away.

United 1-1 Chelsea (21st May)

The boy-wonder's superb scoring streak continued even in the turgid conditions of the Luzhniki Stadium, as he opened the scoring to net his 42nd goal of a prolific season. A goal from Chelsea's Frank Lampard on the stroke of half-time sent the match to penalties, and despite missing his, Ronaldo's spirit was not dampened as United ultimately won the encounter 6-5 on penalties, picking up their first Champions League trophy since 1999.

After an outstanding season with the Old Trafford outfit, Ronaldo was showered with awards and trophies during the close season. He claimed the Barclays Player of the Season award, along with the Barclays Golden Boot, the European Golden Shoe, the FIFPro World Player of the Year, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, UEFA Club Forward of the Year, the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the PFA Fans' Player of the Year.

United 3-1 Middlesbrough (23rd September)

Despite a summer of Euro 2008 disappointment, ankle surgery and transfer speculation, Ronaldo returned to action for United in September and continued to impress, scoring his first goal of the new campaign in the 3-1 League Cup victory over Middlesbrough.

United 5-0 Stoke City (15th November)

Against Barclays Premier League new-boys Stoke, United romped to a 5-0 victory. Ronaldo achieved a milestone, scoring his 100th and 101st goals for the club, both directly from free-kicks. In scoring against the Potters, the Portuguese celebrated another record, as he had scored against each of the other 19 clubs in the league during his time with United.

Wins Ballon d'Or (2nd December)

The ace beat stiff competition from the likes of Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Liverpool's Fernando Torres to win the esteemed Ballon d'Or award. In doing so, he became the first Manchester United player since George Best in 1968 to be handed the trophy.