Cristiano Ronaldo's most hated rule in training revealed by Darren Fletcher

  • Ronaldo hated the change brought about in training by Walter Smith
  • Darren Fletcher reckons that this eventually helped develop the forward's overall game in the wide areas
Sai Teja
Modified 07 May 2020, 19:02 IST

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Manchester United

Over the years, Cristiano Ronaldo has continued to evolve in unfathomable ways. The Portuguese footballer went from a wiry teenager who arrived at the biggest club on the land to become a phenom, unlike anything the sport has ever seen.

The version of Cristiano Ronaldo the world witnessed at the Theatre of Dreams was different from the version of the football icon we watch play in 2020 for Juventus. Although he still has the same fearless approach to the game, he was more of a 'flair' player in the wide areas. What followed then was a gradual transition to playing as an inside forward, and since then, he never really stopped scoring goals till this very day.

That wasn't always the case, though. In 2003, when he began his Manchester United career, the forward took time to transition to life in England and the Premier League. A player who had such an apparent knack for flair had a task on his hands — to find his feet in such a high-octane, physically demanding league. If that wasn't enough, the boy from Sporting CP was playing for Manchester United.

His former teammate Darren Fletcher recalled one incident in particular which took place on the training ground which irked Cristiano Ronaldo, which ultimately went on to benefit him.

Fletcher spoke of a rule that was put in place by former assistant manager Walter Smith. The Scot stopped giving fouls in training, which was received poorly by a player who loved having the ball at his feet.

The rule that irked Ronaldo

Ronaldo in training with Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith
Ronaldo in training with Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith

Speaking to The Lockdown Tactics, Fletcher began,

"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."

The former Manchester United midfielder believed that the rules put in place by the Scottish assistant coach eventually helped develop Cristiano Ronaldo's wing-play at the start of his career. He continued,

"Walter came in and he basically decided to not give fouls in training. And I know it was definitely for (Cristiano) Ronaldo."
"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."

Fletcher went on to describe how irked the Portuguese forward was at his decision, adding,

"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."
Walter Smith (R) has been credited for the development of a young Ronaldo
Walter Smith (R) has been credited for the development of a young Ronaldo's wing-play

This minute change, in the opinion of Darren Fletcher, helped Ronaldo develop his game a lot more and helped him be more efficient with the ball while also getting into good spaces. He added,

"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."

Walter Smith, the man credited for bringing about this change in Ronaldo's game, was also Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant coach during his tenure with the Scotland national team in the 1986 World Cup. The legendary Man United manager showered praise on Smith as he once famously said,

"There are few people in the game with his experience, knowledge and technical ability."

Ronaldo went on to win three consecutive Premier Leagues, a UEFA Champions League and a Ballon d'Or during his time at United, scoring 118 goals and setting up a further 69 in his 292 games for the Red Devils.

Published 07 May 2020, 19:02 IST
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