Posted on September 14, 2017
Manchester United sought to “toughen up” Cristiano Ronaldo as Sir Alex Ferguson turned a blind eye to rough treatment in training, according to former coach Tony Coton.
The ex-goalkeeper formed part of the backroom staff at Old Trafford when Ronaldo arrived from Sporting in 2003. Now a four-time Ballon d’Or winner and the greatest goalscorer in Real Madrid’s illustrious history, the Portuguese was considered lightweight and prone to going to ground too easily after linking up with United.
Ferguson quickly made it his “mission” to eradicate such theatrics, with the likes of Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand allowed to offer harsh lessons to an exciting talent who has gone on to cement a standing as an all-time great.
“Ferguson showed what he thought of this kid Ronaldo by handing him the club’s iconic No.7 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 practice matches and small-sided games.”
He added: “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.”
Ronaldo made 292 appearances for United, scoring 118 goals, before leaving for Real in 2009 with three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown.