Sir Alex Ferguson thinks it is Cristiano Ronaldo’s mental toughness which separates the former Man Utd star from other players.
The Portugal international, who currently plays for , will go down as one of the best players to have ever played the game after winning five Ballon d’Or awards during his career.
Ferguson played a big part in his progress as a player with Ronaldo scoring 118 goals in 292 appearances for Man Utd before sealing his dream move to Real Madrid in 2009.
Speaking to on the importance of being mentally strong in football, Ferguson recalled how was as tough as “old boots”.
Ferguson said: “I remember my first away game as a manager, 1974, [with St Mirren]. We got beat 5-2 by Albion Rovers. I went home that night and, Donald, I told myself: ‘If I don’t get mental toughness in my players, I’ll never make it as a manager.’
“That was at the forefront of all my methods of management – to make sure players could cope with the strains and challenges of being a top footballer. I’ve always tried to endow them with that talent of being mentally tough. I’m very lucky. Aberdeen had some mentally tough players.
“At United, all the best players were mentally tough. Ronaldo is tough, honestly, as old boots. He was always going to be a great player because he had it up there [Ferguson taps his head].
“We played a part in that because Eric Harrison, the [youth] coach, made it tougher for the youngsters. He said: ‘If you don’t have mental toughness, you’ll never make United’s first team.'”
In the same interview, Ferguson recalled the “lonely and frightening” time he spent in hospital when he feared he had lost his memory and his voice.
The 79-year-old Scot, who won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crown during a glorious reign at Man Utd, was rushed to hospital on May 5, 2018.
He admits that after the emergency surgery which ultimately saved his life, he was concerned he would not speak again, or be able to remember anything about his life up to that point.
“That was a big worry for me,” he added. “It happened after the operation when I lost my voice. That was the most frightening part.
“I knew I was alive but, on my own, I started thinking: ‘I wonder if they’re telling me the truth?’ The operation was a success but you’re in that loneliness. It can be frightening.”
He started to write down the names of family members and players to reassure himself that he had not lost his memory, and was asked by a speech therapist to write letters, including one to his wife Cathy.
Jason Ferguson, who has made a documentary about his father which is released later this month, said: “He’d written to my mum, to me, my brothers and all his grandchildren. They were, basically, goodbye letters.”
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