Revealed: How Alex Ferguson reduced Cristiano Ronaldo to tears
Cristiano Ronaldo was reduced to tears in the dressingroom during his early days with Manchester United following harsh words from then manager Alex Ferguson.
The Portuguese star was back in his native country for a Champions League clash against Benfica during his inaugural season at Old Trafford when he was at the receiving end of Fergie's famous hairdryer treatment.
It was enough to leave the Ballon d'Or winner sobbing.
In extracts from his new book published in the Telegraph, Guillem Balague reveals how Ronaldo broke down after Fergie rant, had a mirror beside his locker and was involved in a training ground bust-up with Ruud van Nistelrooy.
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At half time during that match in Benfica, Fergie said: “Who do you think you are? Trying to play by yourself? You’ll never be a player if you do this!”
Ronaldo began to cry. The other players left him be. “He needed to learn,” said Ferdinand. “That was a message from the team, not just from Ferguson: everyone thought he needed to learn.”
A few weeks later, Ronaldo was reminded of the incident by Quinton Fortune and Rio Ferdinand.
“He’s crying in the changing room again!”
“F--- off! What are you talking about?”
Ronaldo is known for being vain and putting a lot into his appearance and according to Balague this was evident from his first few weeks at United.
“He put up a two-metre mirror,” recalled Phil Neville. “He was the first one to do something like that at Manchester United.”
Quinton Fortune had a slightly different version of events: “We even put a mirror in his locker so he could have a look at himself.”
“All I know,’ said Gary Neville, “is one, he had a locker; two, there just happened to be a mirror there on the column around the corner opposite where he got changed; and three, he liked it.”
It was kit man Alec Wylie who seemed to have the story correct. “The old dressing room was very small and we had it rejigged. There was only one mirror in the bathroom, so Stu, the maintenance lad, put a full-length mirror in there. Cristiano, when the players returned to the refurbished changing room, had to have that locker. Since then he couldn’t walk past it without checking himself out.”
One person who didn't see eye to eye with Ronaldo was Ruud van Nistelrooy.
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"I can’t play with this guy. He doesn’t even cross the ball,” Ruud Van Nistelrooy would often shout in training, according to Balague. “I can’t make my runs because he’s not going to cross the ball.”
“I think Ruud was used to David [Beckham] crossing the ball every time he had it,” explained Edwin van der Sar. “David didn’t have pace to dribble and beat opponents, so he had to do something else. Ronnie had the pace and the tricks.”
Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in five successful seasons at Manchester United but his conflict with Ronaldo may have ended his career at the club.
“They had a couple of arguments,” revealed Ferdinand. “Ruud Van Nistelrooy kicked him one time and after that I kicked Ruud just to protect Ronnie a little bit and Ruud swung a punch at me and he missed.”
The Dutchman never played for United after that.
To read the full extracts from Guillem Balague's book, click here