Friday 24 January 2020

Cristiano Ronaldo 'butchered and battered' by Manchester United dressing room - Gary Neville

Neville and Ronaldo celebrate winning the Champions League in 2008 (Getty Images)
Neville and Ronaldo celebrate winning the Champions League in 2008 (Getty Images)

Jack Austin

Cristiano Ronaldo was “butchered and battered” in the Manchester United changing room to make him a man, according to former captain Gary Neville.

The Real Madrid superstar arrived at Old Trafford in 2003 as a scrawny 18-year-old, having impressed United’s defenders during a preseason friendly against Sporting Lisbon, leading for them to beg Sir Alex Ferguson to sign him.

However, by the time Ronaldo left for the Bernabeu six years later for a then-world record £80m, he was considered the best player in the world.

And Neville believes that it was the Old Trafford dressing room which built him into the player he is today, as the club coached his petulance out of him and replaced it with maturity.

"He didn't arrive at Manchester United as someone who was setting the tone for everybody else. It wasn't a case of he came in and all of a sudden everyone else upped their game, that's not how it was," Neville told talkSPORT.

"He became that out of what was in that dressing room. Cristiano was butchered and battered for two or three years at Manchester United and he has said it made him a man.

"He was setting the standards when he left, and he became someone who would come in and do half an hour before training and an hour after training, but there had been 20 players per season for 15 years doing that every day.

"The club, and Alex [Ferguson], and the players all set the tone for each other. If you look at his performances in the first two or three years, his maturity, his decision making, his physicality, his petulance, they were all smoothed out over a period of three or four years at the club."

Ronaldo has scored 261 goals in 240 games for Real Madrid since leaving the Red Devils but Neville said he was showing he could reach that level during his last two seasons at the club.

His two-season spell from 2007 to 2009 saw Ronaldo score 68 goals in 102 games for United and win back-to-back Premier League titles, reach two Champions League finals (winning one) and winning his first Ballon d’Or.

"For two years, 2007-08 and 2008-09, I cannot believe Manchester United fans could ever have seen anything like that,” Neville added.

"He was just out of this world, like he was from another planet."

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