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Rio Ferdinand lifts the lid on a bust-up between Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy

Rio Ferdinand reveals Ruud van Nistelrooy told Cristiano Ronaldo to join the CIRCUS in a stunning training ground bust-up at Manchester United… and former England defender says Portuguese starlet’s reaction showed why he was destined for the top

  • Cristiano Ronaldo was team-mates with Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United
  • Ferdinand admits the forward joined the club ‘as a boy and left as a man’
  • Ex-defender admitted training ground spat with Ruud van Nistelrooy was key
  • Ronaldo has the game’s best ‘mindset’ according to Ferdinand 

Rio Ferdinand has revealed how a training ground bust-up between Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy helped the Portuguese forge a desire to become one of the world’s best.

After joining United as a relatively unknown teenager Ronaldo went on become one of the game’s greatest players before sealing a world record transfer to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 after six years at Old Trafford .

Former team-mate Ferdinand, who played alongside the Portuguese forward, throughout his time at the club admits that Ronaldo’s mindset was the strongest he ever encountered in his career and it helped turn the now Juventus star ‘from a boy to a man.’

Ronaldo gradually became a star during his time at Manchester United between 2003 and 2009

Rio Ferdinand claims that Cristiano Ronaldo (left, at Juventus) was the biggest influence in the Manchester United (right) dressing room before leaving in 2009 

But Ferdinand revealed a showdown with legendary striker Ruud van Nistelrooy inspired Ronaldo to level his game up.

Ferdinand claimed Van Nistelrooy got so fed up with Ronaldo’s failure to provide a cross, he told the Portugal star he belonged ‘in a circus’, a moment the former England defender believed was a crucial turning point mentally for Ronaldo in terms of taking the focus off his skills and stepovers. 

‘It didn’t happen instantly but he was unbelievably skillful and he was there to entertain the crowd,’ Ferdinand said on BT Sport on Thursday. ‘He loved doing skills.

‘He used to get snapped in training but I remember one time, I think it was a good moment for him but he didn’t take it too well. Ruud [Van Nistelrooy] was the man at United at the time. He was the man who scored all the goals.

‘Ronaldo had the ball wide and was doing tricks and Ruud was making the run in the box, Ronaldo didn’t pass and Ruud went crazy, screaming. “He should be in the circus, he shouldn’t be on the pitch” Ruud said and Ruud walked in, off the training pitch, and Ronaldo got upset and angry – “why is he talking to me like that?”.

‘He was 18 or 19 at the time. Some kids would’ve gone under and lost confidence. Some would’ve kept doing the same but Ronaldo knew that Ruud might be right and then it became all about numbers, about statistics, goals. What is going to make him the best player in the world?

‘We used to say to him, take the mic out of him and say “you are not the real No 7 at the club, you’ve got George Best and Beckham” and you could see him thinking, “how can I derail them?”‘

Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) signed Ronaldo for United as a relatively unknown teenager in the summer of 2003 as he unveils the forward alongside fellow signing Kleberson

Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) signed Ronaldo for United as a relatively unknown teenager in the summer of 2003 as he unveils the forward alongside fellow signing Kleberson

Ferdinand (left) claims Ronaldo arrived at the Red Devils as a boy and left as a man

Ferdinand (left) claims Ronaldo arrived at the Red Devils as a boy and left as a man

Following Van Nistelrooy’s departure in 2006, Ronaldo would go on to form a lethal partnership with Wayne Rooney which helped fire the Red Devils to three straight Premier League titles as well as the Champions League in 2008.

‘About mindset, I don’t know a stronger, more determined, obsessed player that I’ve shared a changing room with,’ Ferdinand said. 

‘I was fortunate to watch him go from a boy to a man over a few years and him affecting training sessions. He was absolutely obsessed winning a training session and scoring the last goal.’

Ronaldo soon changed his mentality to focus on becoming the best at Manchester United

Ronaldo soon changed his mentality to focus on becoming the best at Manchester United

A training ground spat with Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) provided a key moment in Ronaldo's development according to Ferdinand

A training ground spat with Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) provided a key moment in Ronaldo’s development according to Ferdinand

Geroge Best is regarded as one of Manchester United's greatest ever players

David Beckham came up through the United ranks to also become a club legend

Ronaldo wanted to better the achievements of the No 7 greats at Manchester United including George Best (left) and David Beckham (right)

Having scored 118 goals in 292 games for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, Ronaldo had become established as one of the world’s greatest players and it landed him an £80million move to Real Madrid.

Since then, the now 35-year-old has become one of the game’s greatest ever stars and Ferdinand admits that his former team-mate left Old Trafford as the best. 

‘When we were going to a premiere, he was asked, “who’s the best player ever?”, Ronaldo said “me”, he added. ‘He’s got an ego but he’s got pride and an obsessive nature and came as a kid and left as the best player in the world.’



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