Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has paid a glowing tribute to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for the crucial role he played in his early development as a footballer.

According to the Daily Mirror, the Portugal international was speaking during an interview with Shortlist magazine, at the launch of his new line of branded 'banana hammocks' underwear.

Asked if his old Red Devils boss would approve of the perky pants, Ronaldo responded cheekily: "He's going to love them, because he loves me!" before praising the Old Trafford great for his influence on making him the player he is today.

"This is a fantastic man – one of the most important people I've met in football.

"I have him in my heart because part of my success is because of him. He was my father in football, so I have to appreciate what he did for me."

Ronaldo joined Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon in a €15million deal in 2003, and enjoyed six successful seasons in England before being sold to Real Madrid for a world-record £80million fee in 2009.

Under Ferguson's tutelage, the 28-year-old won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups and the Champions League in his final campaign.

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