Cristiano Ronaldo's ex-coach admits star used Man Utd as "apprenticeship"

Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003, helping to turn him into the world's best player before after six seasons, he joined...

Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003, helping to turn him into the world's best player before after six seasons, he joined Real Madrid


Cristiano Ronaldo left no question marks about his ambition following his 2003 move to Manchester United.

Signed as a relatively unheralded 18-year-old, the Portuguese would go on to become one of the game’s greats during his six-year spell at Old Trafford.

And United’s former power development coach, Mick Clegg, who worked closely with the teenage prodigy, has revealed the lofty goals he quickly made clear.

"My office was in the gym so I was always available for anyone whenever they wanted to talk. It's listening to the player and finding out what they need in their minds that is key,” Clegg explained in an upcoming BBC documentary.

I'd seen him play over in Portugal. I'm back in Carrington in my chair in the gym and this young lad turns up early in the morning. He comes in and says 'I've heard about you and I know you do a lot of work individually with the players.'

"Then he said 'I'm going to be the best player in the world.'"

Initially his plan was tailored around strengthening his frame to prevent the niggling injuries that could derail a young career - before turning him into the powerful athlete that has dominated European football for nearly 20 years.

Ronaldo achieved his ambition in 2008, winning the first of his five Ballon d’Ors following United’s Champions League triumph in Moscow.

Less than a year later, he made the move to Real Madrid and in doing so became arguably, the most recognisable footballer on the planet.

And Clegg believes Ronaldo, now 36, always had the intention of using Manchester United as an “apprenticeship” helping him prepare for the rest of his career.


"The thing about Cristiano at United is that I know he came to use United as an apprenticeship,” he continued.

“I remember watching him in matches and he would make a mistake, or get caught, he’d fall down and then you’d have the crowd shouting at him, players shouting at him. But it didn’t bother him.

“Then he would know, ‘This is the bit I need to work on’, and he would go and work on it.”

Ronaldo took those lumps to now be widely acknowledged as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

That isn’t to say he has always been the most popular, with a faction believing his confidence is instead a sign of arrogance.

However, Clegg, who worked at Carrington until 2011, claimed his attitude is often wrongly perceived and pointed to his exceptional work-rate as the defining characteristic of his personality.

"We hear these things when people say he's vain or big-headed. He's not big-headed at all. He was a really nice lad to be around the place.

“Seeing the work-rate, it was above everyone else.

"I think he's got big plans for the rest of his life. It's not just about playing football.

"He's an absolute genius."

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