Cristiano Ronaldo spent so much time on the training ground that Sir Alex Ferguson ordered him to leave, his former team-mate Nicky Butt has revealed.
The former Red Devils boss was worried the United star would over-work himself ahead of games with his relentless practice to perfect his techniques.
Butt made way for Ronaldo in the 61st-minute as the future United legend came on to dazzle in his 2003 Old Trafford debut.
In the book ‘Viva Ronaldo’, Butt reveals it wasn’t just pure talent that fuelled Ronaldo’s rise to the top but also his commitment to the game.
Sir Alex Ferguson (left) forced Cristiano Ronaldo (right) to go home as he was over-training
The Portugal star has become legendary, establishing himself as one of the greatest in the game. But he owes his genius to his ‘total dedication’ and ‘total commitment’ 24/7 to the game.
‘He never had a girlfriend back then, or seemed that interested in any distractions such as that, he never had a wife and kids to rush back to see or to entertain, he lived alone,’ Butt says, via The Sun.
‘He was the last to leave the building. In fact, you couldn’t get him off the training pitch as he worked relentlessly on his techniques, as we were all walking off he was carrying a bag of balls to work on those techniques.
Ronaldo replaces Nicky Butt (left) on his dazzling 2003 debut against Bolton Wanderers
‘We would be having lunch in the canteen or getting ready to go home and you could hear the voice of Sir Alex bellowing across the training fields at two or three o’clock in the afternoon, shouting at Cristiano that it was time to get off the pitch as “we have a game in two days – enough now!”‘
Many players discuss their dedication and the extra practice they put in but it is often no more than pretence, claims Butt. Whereas for Ronaldo it went beyond dedication, bordering obsession.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was ‘obsessed’ with training and would relentlessly practice free kicks and new techniques until he perfected them.
Ronaldo was the last of his team-mates to leave the training ground as he worked relentlessly
Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford without the muscular physique we see him display today, and instead as a skinny, scrawny youngster, according to the former United man.
But he strived to reach the physical levels to match the intensity and pace the Premier League demanded, working hard until he met them.
As Butt was replaced by Ronaldo, on the touchline he offered the future star a few words of encouragement, telling him: ‘Good luck, enjoy it’.
Ferguson would shout to Ronaldo to stop as ‘we have a game in two days – enough now!’
The head of first-team development said he and his team-mates were aware it wouldn’t be easy for an 18-year-old to make the switch from Portuguese football to a more physically demanding Premier League.
But the youngster quickly won the Old Trafford faithful over with his trickery, dribbling and promise.
According to Butt, Ronaldo has returned at the right time for the club, creating an ‘incredible buzz’ in the hope he can help the Red Devils find their successful winning formula once again.