CRISTIANO RONALDO was left ‘raging’ after Manchester United adopted a ‘no foul rule’ in training, Darren Fletcher has revealed.
Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford last summer having initially played for Red Devils from 2003 to 2009.
In his first spell in Manchester, he was quickly brought down to earth when then boss Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out that he needed to improve the speed and effectiveness of his decision-making.
Walter Smith, Fergie’s assistant at the time, came up with a genius idea of getting Ronaldo to pass faster.
Former team-mate and now United coach Fletcher, who spoke to the Lockdown Tactics podcast, commented on the Portuguese phenomenon getting told a ‘few home truths’ by old-school Fergie and Smith.
Opening up on United’s old training sessions, he said: “He [Ronaldo] had a tough time as well in the dressing room.
“There were times he was holding on to the ball too much and his decision-making wasn’t there yet. He had a tough time, he got told a few home truths.
“But he could deal with it, he was a big personality. The growth in the space of a few years in terms of his personal training, gym, he just became this absolute monster of a dedicated professional.
“And there’s no doubt that environment at Manchester United helped him as well.
“Walter came in and he basically decided to not give fouls in training. I know it was definitely for Ronaldo.
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“And the boys were flying into each other and Ronnie was getting lumps kicked out of him.
“Before, you wouldn’t get soft fouls but you would get a foul, he’d be taking the mick, draw a foul, win it, laugh, get the ball.
“So Walter just decided there were no fouls now in training. Ronaldo, for two weeks, was going bananas, ‘Who’s this Scottish guy? What is this?’.
“Basically, the lads tackled you anyway at United, but if you knew there wasn’t going to be a foul. Honestly, it’s amazing how quickly Ronnie started moving the ball and running because he knew he wasn’t going to get a foul, so there was no point hanging on to it.
“And then he started to score more goals and get in more goalscoring positions.
“Listen, it’s a small little thing but I feel the second half of the season under Walter Smith he made a big step. Don’t get me wrong, he made massive progressions off the back of that.
“But it was just a small little thing for a few weeks that I remember Ronaldo being absolutely raging about, quickly accepting and then all of a sudden started taking one and two touch and passing and running more without the ball, and started scoring more goals.
“I think something clicked in him like, ‘Oh, the skills are good but now this coaching style has made me recognise that if I move the ball quicker and run, with my physical attributes, I’m going to become more effective’. Great management, again.
“You talk about Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith is right there beside Alex Ferguson.”
Gary Neville has explained how he thought Ronaldo’s body shape changed completely when he came back from the 2006 World Cup.
It was then that the infamous wink after Wayne Rooney’s sending off occurred.
But more than that, former Man Utd star Neville said he came back bulked up and full of confidence.
He said: “He came back from the 2006 World Cup and his maturity had changed. His appearance and physical attributes completely changed overnight.
“He was scrawny, wiry and not very strong and then all of a sudden he was a supper middleweight boxer.
“He was incredible from a strength point of view and the ability to leap, change direction, everything fell into place.
“From that moment on you knew he was going to be really special.”
Ronaldo could leave Man Utd this summer with the 37-year-old eager to continue playing Champions League football.
The forward scored 18 league goals last term but it was unable to help United secure a top-four finish.
United had to settle for sixth and Europa League football.
Ronaldo started from the bench in United’s first win of the season against Liverpool.
He came on with minutes left and is yet to get a goal this term.