Nothing ever went to Ronaldo's head, says Crerand

Nothing ever went to Ronaldo's head, says Crerand

It takes just two minutes for Paddy Crerand to shoot down what he regards as the biggest myth about Cristiano Ronaldo.

"This talk about his ego is a load of s***," Crerand says bluntly.

"That is something that has come out somewhere along the way from people that don't know him.

"I know him well and that isn't the case. Nothing ever went to his head."

Many are inclined to disagree with the former United midfielder.

There was certainly a lack of humility when Ronaldo was named the best player on the planet at the Ballon d'Or gala in Zurich last month.

Ronaldo ended his acceptance speech by screaming "wooo" into the microphone while his great adversary Lionel Messi watched on awkwardly.

But Crerand thinks Ronaldo's critics have got him all wrong. Confidence has been mistaken for arrogance, he insists.

"Ronaldo is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet," he says.

"He's confident about he does. What's wrong with that?"

There was a moment during United's pre-season tour of the United States which backs up Crerand's point.

Just as Real Madrid and United were about to leave the tunnel to take part in a glamour friendly in front of 109,318 in Ann Arbor, Ronaldo turned around in the tunnel, smiled and pointed out Crerand to his Real Madrid team-mates and they all looked in his direction.

The humbled 75-year-old had earlier rekindled his relationship with Ronaldo during an MUTV interview that did not take long to go viral. As host Stewart Gardner was about to ask Ronaldo a question, Crerand butts in and asks "Are you coming back to United?"

It was a question every United fan was asking as they watched the interview.

After all, Ronaldo has been responsible for some of United's most magical moments of the last decade.

And as the Portuguese's 30th birthday approaches, it seems relevant to look back on the Real Madrid forward's incredible career.

The common perception is that United swooped for Ronaldo on the back of a stunning performance against them during a pre-season friendly at Sporting Lisbon.

But the truth is that Ronaldo had been on United's radar for quite a while.

Still, the way he dazzled United's defence during that 3-1 win for Sporting certainly helped accelerate his move to Old Trafford.

"Ronaldo was up against John O'Shea. Sheasy ended up seeing the doctor at half time because he was actually having dizzy spells," former United captain Roy Keane recalls in his autobiography.

"We always joked with Sheasy he had actually sealed the deal by playing like a f****** clown."

Crerand, sat in the stands that day, has similar memories.

"I just sat there thinking where the hell has this kid come from? He said.

"He started on the left wing, and god almighty he gave John O'Shea a roasting.

"Then he moved to the other wing and he f****** absolutely tore Mikael Silvestre apart.

"Alex (Ferguson) signed him straight after the game."

After sealing a £12.2million move to Old Trafford, Ronaldo made an instant impact, earning a standing ovation on his debut - a 30-minute cameo against Bolton.

This time it was Nicky Hunt who left the pitch with his head spinning after being given a torrid time by the 17-year-old, who tricked, twisted and turned the Bolton full-back inside out all night.

"He just lit the place up," Crerand says.

Ferguson described Ronaldo's match-winning performance in his book as "majestic" and after a debut season at United, the teenager was hailed "special" by perhaps the most famous Red no.7 George Best.

However, it did not all go to plan for Ronaldo in his first three years at United. The Portuguese was targeted by opposition players and the gangly winger could not deal with it.

The turning point came just before the 2006-07 season when the fruits of Ronaldo's labour in the gym began to show. A bulked-up Ronaldo II emerged to score 23 goals in 53 games as United clinched the title.

Ronaldo exhibited mental fortitude too, brushing off the controversy that followed his wink after Wayne Rooney's sending off against Portugal in the World Cup.

Ronaldo became a trued phenomenon the following year. Now 22-years-old, he had learned to deal with the physicality of the Premier League and added powerful heading to his extensive arsenal.

It was his free-kicks that caught the eye most though. David James looked completely dumbfounded on his 500th Premier League appearance in January 2008 when Ronaldo's free-kick rose, dipped and then swerved into the corner.

Ronaldo scored 42 goals in 49 appearances that year and also ended the season with his first Champions League winner's medal.

Madrid came calling that summer, but out of respect to Ferguson and United, Ronaldo stayed for another year before departing for £80m.

As United's sitting midfielder, Crerand was privileged to have a front row seat for the best show in Manchester in the 1960s.

Bobby Charlton and Denis Law wowed the crowds at Old Trafford, but perhaps the most iconic player of the Holy Trinity, as they were known, was Best.

It is therefore a huge compliment to Ronaldo that Crerand sees parallels between him and the most famous Belfast Boy.

"They are both very much the same. George was a great bouncy character as well," Crerand says.

"In terms of United legends there is no doubt Ronaldo deserves to be ranked alongside Best and Charlton."

Where Ronaldo's approach differs from Best, of course, is in how he looks after himself off the pitch.

Ronaldo's professionalism and dedication has been the main reason why he has gone on to win the Primera Division, the Champions League and a host of individual awards - ahead of Messi - since joining Real Madrid.

Turning 30 usually signals the final years of a footballer's career, but such an astonishing physical specimen is Ronaldo that few would bet against him playing for another seven or eight years.

United fans - Crerand included - just hope he spends some of that time with them.

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