Biography Reveals Sir Alex Ferguson Once Reduced Cristiano Ronaldo to Tears

Joe Gallagher@joesgallagherFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2015

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, walks from the pitch accompanied by his manager Alex Ferguson after a practice session at Carrington training ground in Manchester, England, Thursday May 15, 2008. Manchester United will play Chelsea in the Champion's League final soccer match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on May 21. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
JON SUPER/Associated Press

Guillem Balague's new biography about Cristiano Ronaldo reveals details about some of the tougher days of the Portugal superstar's time at Manchester United.

Ronaldo became one of the greatest footballers on the planet while playing for the Red Devils and secured an £80 million move to Real Madrid in 2009.

In an extract from Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography, published on Monday by the TelegraphSpanish journalist Balague explains how Ronaldo would be picked on by senior players and how then-boss Sir Alex Ferguson once reduced him to tears after a Champions League match against Benfica.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Man Utd makes his debut during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford on August 16, 2003 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Get
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Ronaldo joined United from Sporting for just over £12 million in 2003 and, despite his obvious confidence and talent, wasn't immediately in the elite group of players at Old Trafford, as Balague's book demonstrates:

They would take the mickey out of his hair and shoes. His almost see-through T-shirts. His sunglasses. His teeth and skin. He quickly decided to have extensive orthodontic work done on his teeth and use skin-care products. 'He overdressed for training,' revealed Gary Neville. 'But I look back and think: ‘Those were high standards.’

Ronaldo would get vexed—the worst thing you can do. 'We got a reaction from him, so we kept doing it,' recalled Fortune. 'If he’d just ignored us, I think we would’ve stopped. Someone would say, ‘we’ve heard you’re just keeping that shirt warm for David Beckham. And 'you can use his locker till he comes back. He’s not going to be happy when he comes back.'

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 05:  Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United gesture during the Manchester United training session at the Carrington Training Complex on December 5, 2006 at Carrington in Manchester, England.  (Photo b
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Ronaldo was apparently mocked for picking a locker that sat directly opposite one of the changing room's only mirrors but soon started to win over the senior players when he began conquering rondos in training, per Balague:

When Ronaldo joined the Champions League box, he spent long periods in the middle chasing the ball. 'He didn’t like defending,' said Phil Neville. 'So we tried to make him run after the ball for as long as we could.'

When he was in the circle, passes would be fired at him that he could not control and he would have to return to the middle. Or if he nutmegged somebody, he would receive an x-rated tackle that he would have to dodge for his troubles. Then, one day, he started receiving good passes: he had earned the veterans’ respect.

'It probably took 18 months,' stated Phil Neville. 'When David Beckham went to Real Madrid, they played little rondos and he used to fire balls through the middle. The foreign players used to laugh at him, ‘Ah, an English pass!’ because they’re all tippy-tappy around the circle. I think Ronaldo was the start of a change in mentality. He introduced a new way of doing the rondo.'

Instead of practising his passing, Ronaldo would practise his technique. He would roll his foot over the ball, faking it one way and dragging it another. Or he would play it through his own legs, or do a backheel. It would rile the British players. 'You’d think, ‘He’s taking the mickey out of me here,’ recalled Neville.

The extract also reveals information about the friction between Ronaldo and Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who moved to Real Madrid in 2006.

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Balague went on to describe a clash he had with Ferguson after a bad performance against Benfica:

Even so, Ronaldo would often forget his responsibilities. During his inaugural season at the club, his manager was hard on him. In Ronaldo’s first match back on home soil since signing for United, a Champions League defeat against Benfica, he spent the game trying to prove why he was a Premier League player and had a bad day.

In the dressing room, Ferguson could not contain himself: 'Who do you think you are? Trying to play by yourself? You’ll never be a player if you do this!'

Ronaldo began to cry. The other players left him be. 'He needed to learn,' said [Rio] Ferdinand. 'That was a message from the team, not just from Ferguson: everyone thought he needed to learn.'

After the telling-off and a few tears, the Portuguese’s reaction was the same as always: keep working in training to improve.


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