When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United as a cocky 18-year-old, few would guess he would go on to become one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen.
The Portuguese starlet had a wealth of style, but, for a while, many of his team-mates wondered whether the substance would ever arrive. Before he became the main man at Old Trafford, a number of established stars had strong opinions of Ronaldo.
Probably the biggest star in the Manchester United squad at the time was Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Dutchman was breaking all kinds of scoring records, but he had seen one of his greatest partners, David Beckham, leave for Real Madrid in 2003 and replaced with Ronaldo.
Guillem Balague, writing in his book ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ gave the Telegraph access to the fractious relationship Van Nistelrooy and the young starlet shared; it would eventually see the former forced out of the club.
“I can’t play with this guy. He doesn’t even cross the ball,” Van Nistelrooy would often shout in training, according to Balague. “I can’t make my runs because he’s not going to cross the ball.”
“I think Ruud was used to David [Beckham] crossing the ball every time he had it,” Edwin van der Sar explains in the book. “David didn’t have pace to dribble and beat opponents, so he had to do something else. Ronnie had the pace and the tricks.”
As Ronaldo began to win over the Manchester United fans, Van Nistelrooy only grew angrier with his team-mate. The striker boiled over in training and kicked out at him, as Rio Ferdinand explained.
“They had a couple of arguments,” revealed Ferdinand. “Ruud Van Nistelrooy kicked him one time and after that I kicked Ruud just to protect Ronnie a little bit and Ruud swung a punch at me and he missed.”
Unsurprisingly, Van Nistelrooy was left out of Manchester United’s squad for their next game. Coincidentally, it was their last of the 2005/06 season. That summer the striker left for Real Madrid and Ronaldo was given the chance to become United’s main goalscoring threat.