Cristiano Ronaldo was “butchered and battered” during his first couple of years at Manchester United before developing into a player who was “out of this world,” according to his former teammate Gary Neville.
Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford as a teenager in 2003 and matured into one of the best footballers in the world, something Neville believes he owes to the schooling he had as a United player.
“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 Sir 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.”
Neville particularly praises Ronaldo’s displays between 2007 and 2009 — two years in which United won the Premier League twice and reached the Champions League final twice, winning once and losing once.
Neville added: “For two years, 2007-08 and 2008-09, I cannot believe Manchester United fans could ever have seen anything like that. He was just out of this world, like he was from another planet.”