Fletcher reveals Walter Smith's plan to allow fouls on Ronaldo

‘For two weeks Cristiano Ronaldo was tearing his hair out, he was going bananas’: Darren Fletcher reveals how Walter Smith’s clever plan to allow all fouls on Portuguese superstar sparked transformation at Manchester United

  • Cristiano Ronaldo had a reputation for going down easily during his early years
  • At Manchester United, coach Walter Smith stopped giving fouls in training
  • Former team-mate Darren Fletcher believes it was to teach Ronaldo a lesson
  • Smith was only at the club for half a season as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant 

Darren Fletcher has divulged how a left-field training method from Walter Smith was the making of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. 

Former Red Devils midfielder Fletcher, who was at the club from 2003 to 2015, played with Ronaldo for six years after the Portuguese moved to United at 18 years of age in 2003. 

Ex-Scotland and Rangers coach Smith had a brief stint as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford in Ronaldo’s first season, and opted not to give the winger fouls so he learnt to use the ball more productively. 

Cristiano Ronaldo had a reputation early on at Man Utd of going to ground too easily

Walter Smith came in as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant for the back-end of the 2003-04 season

‘With Ronaldo, you could see the talent and the ability,’ Fletcher told beIN SPORTS. ‘Charismatic kid, you could see he had that drive to be the best player in the world. 

‘But he frustrated the life out of everybody. Eventually, Walter Smith came in and decided not to give fouls in training. I think the sole purpose was for Ronaldo. 

‘So when he was doing his skills and taking the mick, the lads would foul him.  And for two weeks, Ronaldo was tearing his hair out. And he was going bananas.

‘What happened after a few weeks? Ronaldo starts moving the ball because he’s sick of being kicked. Now he starts playing one or two-touch and running, now he starts getting more goals and it’s clicking in his head, he’s having more of an impact on games. That was the beginning of Ronaldo’s transition.’

Fletcher also remarked on how Ronaldo’s time at United, particularly those early years as a teenager, made him the player he is today. 

Fletcher revealed that fouls were banned in training to teach Ronaldo to stay on his feet 

‘He’s [Ronaldo’s] a very clever lad,’ Fletcher said. 

‘Picked up English ridiculously quick, within 4-6 weeks. Great lad, universally popular in the dressing room. 

‘He speaks now about his time at United and how he became a man very quickly in that environment and in that first-team dressing room. Bad habits were knocked out of him.’ 

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