Football

How Alex Ferguson toughened up Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United

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When Cristiano Ronaldo first arrived at Manchester United in 2003, football fans didn’t know what the make of him.

A relatively unknown lanky winger, full of stepovers.

Was he the real deal? Or was he just a show pony?

Well, the Portuguese youngster was soon upsetting rival fans with his constant diving and rolling around on the floor.

But Sir Alex Ferguson had a plan.

The Scot came up with a genius idea that soon stopped Cristiano from looking for free-kicks from referees in England.

Ferguson's plan for Ronaldo

In an interview with the Daily Mail, former United coach Tony Coton explained how Ferguson got the very best out of Ronaldo in training.

"Ferguson showed what he thought of this kid Ronaldo by handing him the club's iconic No7 shirt when he signed him in 2003,” Coton said.

"But just as important was the gaffer's ability to recognise his weaknesses.

"One flaw was his habit of falling to the floor like a rag doll every time he lost a tackle.

"Sir Alex embarked on a mission to toughen him up. Members of the coaching staff were encouraged to turn a blind eye if they saw Ronaldo being fouled in practise matches and small-sided games."

With teammates like Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes involved in these sessions, Ronaldo was given a pretty tough ride.

"These games were intense and no prisoners were taken," added Coton. "Poor Ronaldo didn't know what hit him as team-mates he'd been sharing a joke with him gave him the kind of treatment that was no laughing matter.

"When a free-kick was not forthcoming, he'd throw his hands up in outrage and sit on the turf muttering Portuguese curses while the game continued around him.

"Toughened pros like Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand would lambast him for being soft.

"It was tough love and slowly but surely, the message began to seep into our winger's consciousness."

Fourteen years after joining the Red Devils and Ronaldo has got on to become one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.

Four - soon to be five - Ballon d’Ors, five league titles for both United and Real and four Champions Leagues.

Would he have achieved all of that without Ferguson’s tough love early in his career? Probably not.

Topics:
Paul Scholes
Ryan Giggs
Rio Ferdinand
Wayne Rooney
Football
Premier League
Manchester United
Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo
La Liga
Gary Neville

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