Cristiano Ronaldo's biggest goalscoring influence at Man United is no surprise
The pair spent four seasons at Old Trafford together.
In his first three seasons at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 27 times in 137 games. In 2006/07, he found the net 23 times. The season after that, he scored 42 times in 49 games.
The Portuguese started adding different facets to his attacking game during his time at United - timing his runs into the box, picking up tap-ins, improving his headers - until he was the team's main scoring threat.
In January 2007, United teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer raved, "His finishing is excellent and he produces crosses which strikers only have to move to get on the end of.
"The thing is, Cristiano is always practising. He always stays after training for half an hour, or sometimes, an hour just practising. Sometimes I wonder if he is doing too much. I certainly cannot do that at my age."
Ronaldo was only 21 at the time, a month shy of his 22nd birthday, but had already evolved into one of the best players in the world. It turns out that it was time spent with Solskjaer that vastly improved Ronaldo's goal return.
Mick Clegg, who worked as a strength and conditioning coach at United for a decade, says that after a couple of seasons at United a teenage Ronaldo 'took on a new level of total dedication to his training because he wanted to be the best footballer in the world'
"He filled his time with football, his whole life was dedicated to it," Clegg recalled. "He even had his own cook so that he was eating well all the time, he made sure he bought a house with a swimming pool so that he could do more training.
"Some players over-do it. I’ve seen players train themselves into the ground because of insufficient knowledge, but Ronaldo was more intelligent than that.
"He'd train hard, but he'd listen to the specialists around him, the coaches, the manager, the other players like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He took their advice in pursuit of personal excellence.
"He'd be in the gym [early each morning] with me doing core work, then he’d do activation, then his actual football training."
Ronaldo is on record about how much Alex Ferguson meant to him at United - once advising him to cut out the step-overs - but he relied heavily on some of his more experienced teammates.
Solskjaer and Wayne Rooney were two United players that worked closely with Ronaldo on the training ground, with the Norwegian often staying on with him for shooting practice. The pair would call over academy goalkeepers and defenders for the kickabouts. It is no surprise to hear of the young attacker turning to Solskjaer, a player who scored 126 goals in 366 games for United despite Ferguson regularly using him as a substitute.
Clegg says that Ronaldo would even head back to the gym even after those extras on the pitch. "Cristiano would come back into the gym and do some power work for his legs. Then he would go home, eat the right food, swim, sleep... and come back in the next morning."
"He arrived aged 18," Clegg adds. "The perfect time. Some players at that age go through a funny phase where they doubt themselves or think they are better than what they are. They curtail training.
"Had they done what Ronaldo did, they could have been far better. Some of the other United players are excellent trainers, but they didn’t quite do as much as Ronaldo."