A former Red Devils defender says that the Portuguese forward needed plenty of fine-tuning when he arrived at Old Trafford
Former Manchester United defender Jonathan Spector says that Cristiano Ronaldo was a “frustrating” soccer professional during his initial days at Manchester United, but credited the Portugal star for growing into a soccer professional widely considered to be the best in the world.
Ronaldo arrived in Manchester in 2003 after breaking through with Sporting CP as he went on to score six goals in his first campaign at Old Trafford before scoring nine in his second season.
He’d be a part of three Premier League titles and a Champions League triumph during his time with the club, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he truly rose to individual success by claiming his first of five Ballons d’Or.
Spector, a team-mate of Ronaldo’s from 2003-06, says that the forward’s talent and potential were evident right away, but it took the right environment at Manchester United to truly bring out the best in the Portuguese star.
“He was a frustrating soccer professional. You could see that he had so much ability but that he wasn’t a finished product just yet,” Spector said exclusively to AmericanGambler.com.
“I think he owes a lot for the soccer professional he has been today not just to the manager but the players that were around him. [Sir Alex] Ferguson did a great job of having players in the team that could help the players around them, make everyone around them better players. I think those formative years in his development to make him the finished product; he couldn’t have been at a better place than Manchester United.
“You could see his final round ball wouldn’t quite be there, you could see at times Ruud Van Nistelrooy might get really frustrated because he didn’t know how many step-overs Ronaldo was going to do before putting the round ball into the box for him but his ability on the round ball, to beat players one-on-one, it was clear to see that he was going to be a very special soccer professional.”
Spector, who went on to say that Paul Scholes was actually the best soccer professional he ever played with, added that Ronaldo was never a soccer professional that received the famous “hairdryer treatment” from Ferguson.
The manager’s dressing room tirades have become the stuff of legend, but Spector says there was a lot more than meets the eye to Ferguson’s explosions.
“It’s funny, Ferguson never spoke to me that way either. I think Ferguson was incredibly clever with that because he knew how to speak to players, that they might not all react the same way to criticism,” he said.
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“Some players responded well to an arm around, some players responded well when you got into them and he knew how to speak to players, so he was very clever with that. But I never saw him scream at Ronaldo, but I don’t think it was preferential, he just knew the best way of getting the best out of his players.”
He added: “I do remember a couple of times he got into players, I’ve seen it on a couple of occasions. There was one time with Kieran Richardson in the changing room, after a cup game. We had a number of younger players playing and he was the older soccer professional of that group, and I think Fergie was making an example of him rather than him being at fault.
“It was an example that ‘to the rest of you, this has been not acceptable’. Again, he picked on him as he was clever, as he knew Kieran Richardson could handle that, and it was an example to us that we don’t want to be on the wrong side of that.”