How Sir Alex Ferguson managed to toughen up a young Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo’s talent has never once been in doubt.

But when he arrived at Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003, his mentality needed to be changed in a big way.

Ronaldo not only brought huge expectation with him but also a nasty habit of hitting the deck when he felt the slightest touch from an opposition player.

As the diving culture began to pervade the Premier League, the Portuguese winger was singled out for particular condemnation for the frequency with which he feigned injury and attempted to trick referees into giving free kicks.

It needed to stop and his manager at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson, was eager to do so quickly and he set about toughening the youngster up.

Former United coach Tony Coton has revealed how the Scot managed to fix that particular problem.

“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 told the Daily Mail.

“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.

“These games were intense and no prisoners were taken.

“Poor Ronaldo didn’t know what hit him as teammates 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.”

Ronaldo went on to win everything there was to win with United before sealing a £80 million move to Real Madrid in 2009. He’s done pretty well since he went there.


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