Manchester United had to turn Cristiano Ronaldo into a “team player”, says Mike Phelan, with the Portuguese forced to do “things he didn’t want to” in order to become a global superstar.
The Red Devils bought into the Portuguese’s potential when winning the race to lure him away from Sporting in 2003.
Six productive years were spent in English football by a man who has gone on to claim five Ballon d’Or awards.
By the time he left for Real Madrid in a record-breaking transfer, Ronaldo had been transformed from a show pony winger into a fearsome frontman.
His game was taken to even greater heights in Spain, while the goals continue to flow for the 35-year-old at Serie A giants Juventus.
United believe they put the foundations in place for such success to be enjoyed, with Phelan working as a first-team coach alongside Sir Alex Ferguson when Ronaldo was acquired.
The Red Devils were always aware that they had a rough diamond on their hands and did all they could to ensure that a talented “sponge” soaked up as much advice as possible.
Phelan, who is back at Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s right-hand man, told The Coaching Manual of his experiences with an all-time great: “Ronaldo stood out.
“He was like a sponge. He wanted more [advice from United's coaches]. He challenged you for more.
“We had to try and get Cristiano to be a team player and he got it. In the end, he got it.
“There were certain things we did in training that made him do things he didn't want to do.
“Especially when the success came and after he moved to Real Madrid, there were certain things - when observing games at Madrid - that he definitely picked up at Manchester United.
“He was translating that further up the ladder of excellence. That's important and there's a satisfaction there.
“I don't claim to have created Cristiano Ronaldo. A lot of people have influenced him. But the biggest influence has been himself - his drive has been fantastic.”
Ronaldo hit 118 goals in 292 appearances for United, claiming three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown along the way, while the first of his five Golden Balls was secured in 2008.