From skinny teen to one of the greatest of all time

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When Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester after the 2006 World Cup, he looked wider, taller and stronger. If he had been seen as a boy in his first campaigns, he would now be a man, with Sir Alex Ferguson taking him under his wing as he had done with Eric Cantona years before.

There had been fears that he would leave the club that summer after a confrontation with Wayne Rooney when Portugal knocked England out of the tournament on penalties, with Ronaldo scoring one of the goal kicks. His wink to the bench made him inexplicably the number one public enemy on these beaches.

Regardless, it was water under the bridge for the two young forwards, both about to reach the form that would make them superstars in the match, as they combined brilliantly on the opening day when Manchester United beat Fulham 5-1.

Ronaldo and Rooney celebrate one of the goals against Fulham / Alex Livesey / GettyImages

But this process of sharpening Ronaldo, both mentally and physically, had begun some time earlier. For any coach who can claim to have had an impact on Ronaldo’s greatest, with Ferguson at the top of the list playing the role of the Portuguese youngster’s ‘football dad’, it would be negligible to ignore the role played by Walter Smith.

When Ronaldo was a skinny teenager, his talent and potential were not up for debate, but he was soft under pressure and selfish with the ball. Smith, who was temporarily Fergie’s assistant manager during Ronaldo’s first year at the club, introduced a “no foul” policy to coach matches that changed his way of playing.

1002 games. 725 goals. 5 Ballon d’Or awards. Crazy statistics?

Darren Fletcher reveals the person who transformed @Cristiano’s career during his formative years at Manchester United.

The rest is history … # beINPL pic.twitter.com/rn9utyJqFu

– beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) March 19, 2020

United and Ferguson were written off at the start of the 2006/07 season, with Chelsea adding world-class players to the squad who had just won the title convincingly, while United took care of Ruud van Nistelrooy without replacing him. But the coach had confidence in his young stars and Ronaldo and Rooney both rose to the pitch, scoring 23 goals each in all competitions, finishing the season as the third and fourth top scorers, respectively, and a Premier League winning medal accompanying their strike. .

The biggest criticism of Ronaldo ahead of this season was that he had no end product. He had bags of tempo, his step-overs would leave fullbacks on the floor, but his finish and crossing were missing. He had begun to respond to these critics.

But if the first title-winning season showed his growth as a player of the highest quality, he confirmed the following year as the best in the world, with a Ballon d’Or among the awards.

His 42 goals in 49 games were a remarkable return, as United won the league again, but this time he added the Champions League to their trophy cabinet. While Ronaldo missed in the penalty shootout against Chelsea, it was his nod, with the levitation-like technique we have become accustomed to since then, that took the match to penalties.

Ronaldo scores United’s only goal in the Champions League final against Chelsea / Alex Livesey / GettyImages

After flirting with Real Madrid all summer, he stayed one more season to fulfill a promise to Ferguson, and United won the league again. When he traveled for a record £ 80 million – an astonishing sum at the time – it is worth noting that the fee would in fact prove to be a huge bargain. It was hard to imagine then that he would replicate his form of the 2007/08 season when he was in Spain, let alone surpass it time and time again. But that was exactly what he did.

Ronaldo scored 53 goals in 54 appearances in 2010/11, 60 of 55 the following season, 55 of 55 the following year, then 51 of 47, 61 of 54, 51 of 48, and so on. He scored an average of 50 goals per season over nine years in Spain. Ridiculous. And his four goals in the Champions League finals place him ahead of all players in the world in that competition.

Five Ballons d’Or, five Champions League winning medals, seven league winning medals and a crazy amount of other trophies and individual awards to it. He has proven to be the man for the big moment time and time again and continued to show this with Juventus, especially when he scored three goals against Atletico Madrid in Europe to turn a 2-0 loss from the first match against all odds.

Ronaldo with his five Ballon d’Or trophies / Power Sport Images / GettyImages

Every season he was linked with a return to Old Trafford and at first United fans believed in it every time. After Ferguson’s retirement, fans were desperate for someone to come in and save the day, and Ronaldo seems to have a greater pedigree than any potential manager to be able to turn around a club’s fortune on his own.

However, it was not until last summer – after Manchester City bloggers, fan channels, former players and podcasts got wet over the possibility of recruiting Ronaldo – that the deal finally came to an end.

It was like Christmas day. The fear of imagining seeing a United legend in the blue of City, along with stumbling them to get home, was euphoric. Of course, he was past his best, but a falling Ronaldo is still better than pretty much anyone else still playing the game.

Ronaldo is the best player of all time and he still proves it at United. The first time there was the late winner against Fulham when United closed in on the 2007 title, the opening goal against Wigan on the final day of the season to win the league in 2008 and the two goals he scored against Spurs to help United come back from 2-0 down to win 5-2 to turn the tide to win the 2009 title.

Ronaldo celebrates a winner of overtime against Villarreal / Soccrates Images / GettyImages

This time the difference is that the goals he sets will clearly not drive United to the title, but time and time again he has shown himself in terms of, especially in Europe.

He has scored 13 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions, with his role in the Champions League ensuring that United finished at the top of the group, after failing to advance last season. It was the 95th minute winner against Villarreal at home before making the opening win over them away, and the 81st minute winner in a match had United lost 2-0 to Atalanta at Old Trafford, before making both goals away from home. drag.

Only three players have scored more goals than Ronaldo in the league this season, all with more minutes on the pitch, and his contribution has proven to be crucial against the likes of Arsenal and West Ham.

He benefited from the great personalities in the locker room during his first performance at the club, developed his winning mentality and high standards, and now he raises the bar for the players in this squad. You can only imagine how much people like Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, who had all previously named him as inspiration, will benefit from seeing how this legend plays and trains up close.

When United won Treble in 1999, so many of these players hailed Cantona as their hero, who had set expectations for them in terms of preparation, competitiveness and hard work.

Gareth Copley / GettyImages

There is no denying that Ronaldo’s best days are behind him, but when a player has as much quality and experience as he does, his value to the team becomes more than what he adds to the pitch now, but what he adds to the young minds of those he is. playing next to. His legacy is there for all to see, but he still has the time and motivation to achieve even more, both through himself and those who are on the field with him.

“These fans are special,” he said when he signed for the second time. “I hope they can push the team when they need it. We will be here on the pitch and do our best and try to win important things.

“That’s why I’m here, I’m not on holiday, winning earlier was good but I’m here to win again. I’m capable. I’m ready to go.”

Ronaldo’s football history is not over yet. We are the lucky ones who get to witness it.

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