Sir Alex Ferguson continues to amaze me. Not only does he manage to pull off incredible results, but he’s also able to shape players into true superstars. Two perfect examples of this are the Man United players who scored the crucial goals on Tuesday night in Rome: Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Think back to when Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo first joined Man United. Rooney was a moody, temperamental beast who was more likely to get red carded for a rash challenge than score a goal. Even in his first several games for Manchester United, he appeared to be a liability for the side despite his incredible raw talent. Now, Rooney is a model footballer who has quelled his anger and fueled that aggressive energy into tip-top performances.
Cristiano Ronaldo is another perfect example. When he first joined the Red Devils, his scintillating skills were something that Premier League fans had never seen. The stepovers were so wonderful to watch.
However, Ronaldo’s early days at Manchester United exposed two main weaknesses. First, his stepovers were sometimes his own worst enemy as his legs would get tangled up and he’d lose the ball. Or a defender would stop Ronaldo’s stepover in its tracks and steal the ball away.
Second, Ronaldo was a poor crosser of the ball. While his stepovers would often trick defenders to allow the Portugese star to create space down the wing, Ronaldo’s trickery often meant nothing because his crosses wouldn’t reach the box or would sail wayward.
In both Rooney and Ronaldo’s case, Ferguson and his coaching staff have to be applauded for turning these two prodigies into superstars. It’s questionable whether Rooney could have achieved the same success at Everton. More importantly, it’s doubtful that Everton could have tamed Rooney as well as Ferguson did. At the Goodison Park club, he seemed like a hothead. At Old Trafford, he rarely shows his mean streak.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is simply incredible. At Manchester United, the Portugese winger has been able to widen his array of skills (to more than just stepovers). But more importantly, he’s been able to do so without resorting to the fake diving that was so much a part of his early career in Manchester.
Can Rooney and Ronaldo help Manchester United lift the Champions League trophy this year? It certainly seems likely based on the club’s current form.