How Sir Alex Ferguson helped Cristiano Ronaldo toughen up

Cristiano Ronaldo regards Sir Alex Ferguson as a father figure. The legendary Manchester United boss looked after Ronaldo when he was signed by the club as an 18-year-old. As well as being a mentor off the pitch, he helped the attacker develop on it. Ronaldo wouldn’t be the player he is today without Ferguson toughening him up.

Former United coach Tony Coton has spoken to the Daily Mail about Ferguson’s methods for doing this.

“Ferguson showed what he thought of this kid Ronaldo by handing him the club’s iconic No7 shirt when he signed him in 2003,” he said. “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.”
Keane and Ferdinand

Ferguson was assisted by the tough, seasoned professionals he had in his ranks. The likes of Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand didn’t hold back. They wanted to prepare Ronaldo for the literal challenges to come.

“These games were intense and no prisoners were taken,” Coton continued. “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.”