Sir Alex Ferguson's rare Cristiano Ronaldo criticism is blueprint for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Cristiano Ronaldo might be the best player Sir Alex Ferguson worked with, but that didn’t stop the former Man Utd boss publicly criticising his player in the past

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previews Spurs clash

Sir Alex Ferguson is on record calling Cristiano Ronaldo the best player he’s ever coached.

He also ranks him above Lionel Messi in the age long debate, although has stopped short of hailing him as the greatest ever.

That didn’t mean Ronaldo was above criticism however, with the Portuguese superstar given a brutal lesson by the Scot back in 2009.

At that point the United star was the most recent winner of the Ballon d’Or, but that didn’t stop him being demoted to the bench.

In April of that year the Red Devils were trying to hold off a charging Liverpool side and retain their European crown.

Ronaldo, so often their go to man, had begun having quite the opposite affect. Errors against Aston Villa and Porto had cost United goals and Ferguson wasn’t having it.

Sir Alex Ferguson was never shy to criticise Cristiano Ronaldo, as he did in 2009

Twice in the space of three days the forward had surrendered possession and saw his team pay the ultimate price.

The Portuguese star, then just 24, was a target for defenders, who made attempts to rough him up, but Ferguson wanted him to learn that giving the ball away had consequences.

Publicly the Scot made that known as Ronaldo was bench for a game at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, which United won 2-1.

“I don’t accept that he will give goals away because of the player he is,” said Ferguson. “I speak to him about it. I don’t accept that from anyone. In European football, if you give the ball away it takes a long time to get it back.”

Ronaldo would inevitably return to the starting XI and play a big part as United retained the league title, although they were beaten in the Champions League final by Barcelona, which would prove to be Ronaldo’s last game for the club.

Signed in 2003 as a precocious talent, the then teenager took time to adapt to the English game. His stepovers quickly became a hallmark and remain one of his defining images.

That led to him being scythed down by opposition players and referees were called upon to do more to protect the player.

Ferguson though, as he often did, backed his player whilst also challenging him, claiming Ronaldo “can’t get everything his way.”

“He always feels he’s not getting the proper protection from referees and I think that, maybe, in quite a few cases he is right, and a few cases he is not right,” said Ferguson.

Cristiano Ronaldo was benched for a game at Sunderland

“It’s hard when a player who wants to entertain doesn’t get everything his own way. But you can’t get everything your own way. He understands that and there’s not a problem with that.”

Testament to Ronaldo is that just four days after Ferguson’s public criticism and decision to bench him he was again reminding everyone of his talents.

The forward was restored to the starting XI for a match in his homeland at Porto’s Estadio do Dragao – a ground no English team had ever won at.

United secured a 1-0 victory with Ronaldo scoring from just shy of 40 yards to settle the quarter-final tie. That is sort of the narrative of the now 36-year-old’s career. Yes he’s frustrating, sometimes divisive, but time and time again he produces.

The Portuguese star came up with big moments after he was benched

Following 12 years away in Spain and Italy, Ronaldo returned to Manchester this summer and is again posing conundrums his manager, now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, must solve.

Ferguson’s influence in bringing the five-time Ballon d’Or winner back to Old Trafford was clear. Ronaldo himself penned an Instagram post upon his return and signed it off “Sir Alex, this one is for you”.

The Scot though looked on last Sunday as United were humiliated by Liverpool. The expression on his face said it all.

It is now onto Solskjaer to try and get the best from this version of Ronaldo – and Ferguson’s ruthless approach could prove to be the blueprint.

The forward has started with regularity since he returned earlier this season with his only notable omission coming in the draw vs Everton.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must get the best out of his No 7 if he is to be a success


Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The commotion caused by his snub almost overshadowed United’s poor performance, which in itself is not good for the club, the player or the team.

Ferguson may have been seen saying “you should always start with your best players” – but he often left out major names to make a point.

With United still searching for an identity under Solskjaer making changes that don’t include Ronaldo would perhaps not be the worst thing.

Whenever tweaks are made before games, or subs made during matches, there is this untouchable aura around the man wearing No 7.

Who is currently the best manager in the world?

Yes that reputation might be merited, but Solskjaer still needs to prove he can say no to Ronaldo in order to get a reaction. The Portugal star is a model professional and would surely react in the right way.

Even if the Red Devils do become a pressing side, Ronaldo can still have a role to play, perhaps from the bench, but a role nonetheless.

Pundits and fans continue to say “you don’t sign Ronaldo to leave him on the bench”.

Well, go back to Ferguson’s tenure, do you possess a Ballon d’Or winner to leave him out when he makes a mistake or two? The answer was clearly yes.

If United are to be successful Ronaldo will be a crucial figure, but he doesn’t have to be the central figure.

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