Gary Neville insists Manchester Unitedmade Cristiano Ronaldo– not the other way around.
The Old Trafford giants paid £12million to sign the then 18-year-old Portuguese youngster in the summer of 2003, selling him six years later to Real Madridfor a world record £80m.
Along with Lionel Messi, he is widely regarded now as the best player in the world, but Neville maintains he was a long way from that in those early days in the north-west of England.
“He didn’t arrive at Manchester United as someone who was setting the tone for everybody else. It wasn’t a case of he came in and all of a sudden everyone else upped their game, that’s not how it was,” Neville told talkSPORT.
“He became that out of what was in that dressing room. Cristiano was butchered and battered for two or three years at Manchester United and he has said it made him a man.
“He was setting the standards when he left, and he became someone who would come in and do half an hour before training and an hour after training, but there had been 20 players per season for 15 years doing that every day.
“The club, and Sir Alex [Ferguson], and the players all set the tone for each other. If you look at his performances in the first two or three years, his maturity, his decision making, his physicality, his petulance, they were all smoothed out over a period of three or four years at the club.”
From those early days, however, Ronaldo grew into a player capable of winning games almost single-handedly.
Neville added: “For two years, 2007-08 and 2008-09, I cannot believe Manchester United fans could ever have seen anything like that. He was just out of this world, like he was from another planet.”