Ronaldo signed for the Red Devils in 2003 from Sporting Lisbon and while it was obvious he possessed much talent, his game was also far from complete.
Notably he would be bullied off the ball and would seek out referees to help him out.
It was a weakness identified by former Manchester United manager Ferguson who quickly set about addressing it. The legendary manager ordered his staff to turn a blind-eye to Ronaldo being fouled during training sessions. With team-mates then slating the Portuguese player for being soft, Ronaldo adapted his game.
‘Ferguson showed what he thought of this kid Ronaldo by handing him the club’s iconic No7 shirt when he signed him in 2003. But just as important was the gaffer’s ability to recognise his weaknesses,’ former Manchester United coach Tony Coton told the Daily Mail .
‘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.
These games were intense and no prisoners were taken. 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.’
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