Mick Clegg formed part of the backroom staff at Old Trafford when a Portuguese prodigy started out on a path to superstardom
Cristiano Ronaldo used Manchester United “as an apprenticeship”, claims former Red Devils coach Mick Clegg, with the Portuguese putting his experience at Old Trafford towards becoming an “absolute genius”.
A five-time Ballon d’Or winner was a skinny winger with more tricks in his bag than goals when lured away from Sporting by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003.
It did not take him long to realise what needed to be done in order to reach the top, with Real Madrid and Juventus benefitting considerably from a skill set that was honed in England.
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What has been said?
Clegg was power development coach at United when a future superstar arrived and has told the BBC documentary ‘Cristiano Ronaldo: Impossible to Ignore’ of moulding an all-time great: “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.
“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.'”
Clegg added: “The thing about Cristiano at United is that I know he came to use United as an apprenticeship.
“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.”
The bigger picture
Ronaldo hit 118 goals for United through 292 appearances, before going on to plunder 450 across 438 outings for Real Madrid.
He has since become the fastest player to reach 100 in Juventus’ illustrious history, with a man who was won league titles in England, Spain and Italy – along with five Champions League crowns – showing no sign of slowing down at the age of 36.
Ambition burns as bright as ever for the Portugal international, who has found the target on 103 occasions for his country, and Clegg expects an iconic figure to thrive whatever his future holds.
He added: “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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