Gary Neville reveals moment Cristiano Ronaldo became a world class player at Manchester United
A clash with Wayne Rooney, hatred from the newspapers and a body transformation saw the Portuguese forward 'completely change'
Ahead of his former side's Super Cup clash with Real Madrid, Manchester United legend Gary Neville has recalled the moment Cristiano Ronaldo “completely changed” from scrawny youngster into world class talent.
Ronaldo made his name at Old Trafford before becoming the world’s most expensive player when the Spanish giants bought him in the summer of 2009.
Neville, who often played in behind Ronaldo on United’s right-flank, admits he never quite saw the potential of the four-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“In his early years at United I didn't think he'd reach the heights he has,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“But after 2005/06 his body completely transformed from being quite thin and skinny to being completely different, as too did his goal scoring, decision making and maturity.
“Once you saw him playing at that level then you thought 'wow'.”
United would win three Premier League titles in a row during that period as well as claiming the 2008 Champions League, where Ronaldo’s towering header opened the scoring before they went on to beat Chelsea on penalties.
“That 2006 to 2008 period was unbelievable,” Neville added.
“Coming back from the 2006 World Cup was the moment I remember him completely changing.
“Obviously there was the big incident with Wayne Rooney so he came as someone who was hated nationally and had a bad reputation with the newspapers.”
Neville believes the fallout from that World Cup quarter-final between England and Portugal in 2006, where Rooney was sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho after protestations from Ronaldo, in some ways helped the young Portuguese forward grow up.
“He just seemed to mature overnight and his body completely changed,” Neville added.
“It was in that instance where I felt the big change was; it wasn't a particular moment in a football match.”
(© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service