Exclusive: Ex-Man Utd coach explains how Cristiano Ronaldo became the ‘ultimate athlete’

Rene Meulensteen spoke to ManchesterWorld about his work with the ex-Manchester United attacker, during the period between 2007 to 2009.
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Rene Meulensteen has told ManchesterWorld that Cristiano Ronaldo became the ‘ultimate athlete’ at Manchester United, as he progressed from a ‘boy to a man’.

The Portugal star worked closely with Meulensteen during his first stint as a United player, a period in which Ronaldo quickly developed from precocious talent to one of the world’s greatest stars. Meulensteen returned to the club in January 2007 and joined Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching staff, having previously worked with the club’s academy and reserves.

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Less than 18 months after the Dutchman’s appointment, a 42-goal haul from Ronaldo fired the Red Devils to a Champions League and Premier League double, with the attacker also collecting the Ballon d’Or in 2008. Four more have subsequently followed in a career that saw the now 38-year-old break repeated records and establish himself as one of the world’s greatest-ever players.

Speaking exclusively to ManchesterWorld ahead of the launch of his autobiographyUnited, Sir Alex and me: My life in Football, Meulensteen said he was not surprised that Ronaldo would go on to achieve such remarkable feats in the game.

“No, not all because the moment he walked through the door at 18 at Man United, you could see he was very focused, he was very determined and he knew what he wanted,” the ex-United coach explained. 

“He would embrace everything to become the player he became, not just the stuff I did with him, but the strength and conditioning stuff he did, very important. He felt he needed to become the ultimate athlete, which he has become.

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“That was important and from my end I felt I needed to make Cristiano as functional and effective as I could be in his all-round game and very productive in and around the goal. Those were the sort of things I focused on.

“I’m sure the conversations he had with the management - Sir Alex Ferguson, Mick Phelan, Carlos Queiroz - they all contributed to that process of him progressing in United, because he came to Man United as a boy, but left as a man.

“We put a really good base for him that when he went to Real Madrid he already had some really good years behind him in terms of training and game experience that he could build on at Real Madrid.”

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