WHEN Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United as a talented 17-year-old in 2003, the wheels were set in motion for one of football’s special bonds.
But few would believe that his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, a father-figure to the 36-year-old Portuguese superstar, would aid his return to the club that made him nearly 20 years later.
In the summer, it seemed nailed on that the all-time leading international goalscorer would sign for United’s arch-rivals Manchester City.
However, Fergie revealed he stepped in to stop that from happening.
“A lot of people played their part (in bringing Ronaldo back) and I contributed knowing that really Cristiano wanted to come here and that was important,” he told Viaplay before the ex-Real Madrid star made his return to Manchester United.
Ronaldo, himself, acknowledged the manager’s contribution. “PS — Sir Alex, this one is for you…” he wrote in a social media post celebrating his move from Juventus.
Now, the fiery Scot has said Ronaldo deserves a sixth Ballon d’Or title, after his goalscoring exploits for club and country.
Through the years, Fergie has been credited with making him the player he is today. Sparing him the infamous hairdryer treatment, Fergie filled Ronaldo’s head with confidence – giving him the freedom that allowed him to become a five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The “Boss”, as Ronaldo affectionately calls him, was even there for his protege’s most famous moment for his country – winning Euro 2016 – giving him a hug from the stands as he collected his winners’ medal.
Their father/son relationship has blossomed through the years, so much so it was recently revealed that Ronaldo was set for a sensational return to Old Trafford until Fergie’s retirement in 2013 halted a deal.
After Sir Alex retired, he enjoyed going to live events – from the Oscars to various European finals.
At Euro 2016, Fergie was in the stands to watch Portugal defeat France 1-0 after extra-time.
As the Portuguese players walked down the steps after receiving their medals, a proud Ferguson embraced Ronaldo and gave him a huge hug.
Then, a year later he was a special guest at the 2017 Champions League final, in which Ronaldo won man of the match and scored twice in a 4-1 rout of Juventus.
Of course, it was Fergie that give him his award that night.
FAMILY COMES FIRST
Back in 2005, as Ronaldo was beginning to establish himself at Old Trafford, his father Jose Dinis Aveiro fell ill in hospital after years of alcohol abuse.
Immediately, Fergie ordered him to take compassionate leave – even though it meant his star player would miss key games during the season.
“When my daddy was sick in London, and he was in hospital very bad in a coma,” Ronaldo revealed Sir Alex Ferguson: Secrets of Success’ in 2015.
“I had a conversation with him [Ferguson] and I said: ‘Boss, I don’t feel good.’
“We are in a key moment in the Champions League, and I said I don’t feel good and I wanna see my dad. He said: ‘Cristiano – you wanna go one day, two days, one week? You can go. I’m going to miss you here because you are important, but your daddy is the [priority].’
“When he told me that, I feel like this guy is unbelievable. He the father of football for me.”
Fergie knew Ronaldo’s dream was to play for Real Madrid, and he wasn’t going to stop him from joining the La Liga giants.
That said, he did try to pull a fast one when it was reported that Los Blancos were deep in talks with CR7.
“You don’t think we’d get into a contract with that mob, do you?,” Sir Alex said back in 2008.
“Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t sell them a virus. So that’s a no — there is no agreement between the clubs.”
Six months later, Ronaldo moved to Spain – with Fergie in agreement all along.
A FITTING TRIBUTE
In 2012, at the unveiling of a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, Ronaldo made an appearance by video link to pay tribute to his former boss.
He began by apologising for not being there in person because of his hectic schedule.
“I think you 100 per cent deserve it for what we did with you,” Ronaldo continued in the clip.
He even joked, “I hope to see you soon, because I need to practice my English, not my Scottish!”
SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
In 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson was the special recipient of the BBC Sports Personality Diamond Award for the show’s 60th edition.
Again, Ronaldo took to video link to heap praise on Sir Alex.
“You were like a football father to me,” Cristiano said.
“You deserve this award because you are a fantastic manager, a fantastic person and the number one.”
In 2015, Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing life made it to the big screen.
He opened himself up to the world in his documentary ‘Ronaldo’ – which Fergie wasn’t going to miss for the world.
The Scot stood side-by-side with Ronaldo on the red carpet for its premiere in London.
Both beaming with pride, Ronaldo and Fergie looked like father and son.
MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
When Sir Alex suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2018, Ronaldo and the whole footballing world were praying that he would pull through.
Taking to Instagram, Ron shared an image of them together with the caption: “My thoughts and prayers are with you, my dear friend. Be strong, Boss!”
Ferguson made a miraculous recovery and the pair met up when Juventus played Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“A great coach and above all a wonderful man,” Ronaldo shared with a photo in a tweet.
“Taught me so many things inside and outside the pitch. Great to see you in good shape, Boss!”
Last year, Ronaldo won the Portuguese Player of the Year award for a record 10th time.
It was Fergie’s time to record a moving video message for his former student.
“Congratulations on a great achievement and a wonderful night you’re going to have in Portugal,” Ferguson said in the clip.
“I’m really sorry I can’t be with you, but I look back and see you as a young lad at 17 years of age who came to Manchester United, how you have progressed as a human being and a fantastic sportsman.
“I want to say to you, and your mother, and all your family, and all of your kids; well done.
“You have been an absolute pleasure for me to have known, to have worked with, and to have seen you progress into the footballer you were.
“So, good luck, have a great night, and well done.” — The Sun