Cristiano, an unfulfilled United legend
Iconic United players
There is just one reason why Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't figure among Manchester United's other Ballon d'Or winners Denis Law, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best and that's Real Madrid. The Portuguese ace has chalked 367 goals in seven and a bit years with Real Madrid - by way of contrast, during 17 seasons at Old Trafford Sir Bobby hit 249 while Law scored 237 and Best 179. But Cristiano left the club when he was just 24, taking with him, a registry which, had he achieved there with United, would have been unsurpassed and practically unreachable at a club with138 years of history.
It's clear that the player and the club mutually influenced each other. A few days ago, Gary Neville, the man who recommended his signing after being left astounded at how an 18-year-old Cristiano had his brother Phil running in circles during a friendly meeting between Sporting Clube and United, admitted that his strong work ethic club, one which until then had never been seen before, rubbed off at the club: “He'd arrived for training an hour and a half before everyone else and leave half an hour before the rest. He'd been doing that since he was 15 years old”. Neville also revealed that Cristiano was given a ruthless 'initiation': “We battered him - gave him a real roughing up to turn him into a man”. There are stories of Ferguson who, for months on end would reprimand him for his style of play and individualism. “He'd whack chairs, bottles... whatever was closest to hand”, Cristiano recalled, at the thought on the Scot's explosive tantrums. “I feel proud to have been treated that way - it was exactly what I needed at that point”, he has said on more than one occasion.
It was that unwavering mental strength that brought him here, and what, according to Ferguson, differentiates him from Messi: “Now don’t get me wrong, Messi is a fantastic player, but he is a Barcelona player; but Ronaldo could play for Stockport County and score a hat-trick; - he has everything and he is as brave as a lion". Another United legend Roy Keane, admitted that he too would bark at Cristiano, adding “not that he really needed me to”. And it was those toughening-up rituals in those Old Trafford barracks which turned Cristiano into the player he is today.
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