‘Cristiano Ronaldo is a bully’

Gary Neville has reasserted his respect for former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Portuguese prepares to face the Red Devils this week.

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford alongside now-retired right-back Neville before moving across to Spain in 2009.

Ahead of the Portuguese lining up for the first time against his former teammates, Neville has reflected on his core strengths in the game.

“Ronaldo is a bully. He bullies the weakest defender. He does it all the time,” the former England international told reporters this week.

“He did it to Manchester City against Maicon. He will play on the left wing. If he can't get on the ball he will play centre-forward, midfield, right wing.

“He changed my perception of the game. United had a midfield four – Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs – I played with Beckham for seven years. They never had the freedom to decide their position on the pitch.

“Suddenly I didn't have someone in front of me who would come back and double up on the left-winger. In those early years he used to go wandering off.

“He was told to play on the right by Sir Alex Ferguson and would end up on the left. That was unheard of. By the end of Ronaldo's Manchester United career I was willing him not to chase back so he was free.

“He just decided his own position, which was based upon where the space was and who was the weak link. He made me realise you didn't always need to be in your shape.

“We had a player who was beyond a level of talent I had ever seen. He would go and win us game after game. I suppose that is more important.”

Ronaldo won the 2008 Ballon d’Or for his performances at United, which inspired a Premier League and Champions League double.

“I cannot think of any player who graced Old Trafford like he did for two seasons. He won us matches week in, week out. It was a phenomenal level of performance, scoring an unbelievable amount of goals.

“Now, he is a monster. I saw him on Saturday evening. He picks the ball up in an innocuous position, 30 yards out, does some type of shimmy I can't even describe let alone do, beats a man and whacks it in from 25 yards. You can't defend against that.

“Then he scores a counter-attack goal when he chases 80 yards forward, then he preys on the back of the centre-half and scores a hat-trick inside 30 minutes.”

Tags Manchester United Neville Ronaldo