Cristiano Ronaldo is struggling to wield influence in the Manchester United dressing room because the Old Trafford he left in 2009 is not the same one it is now
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- 12:28, 21 Jan 2022
The Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to is a far cry from the one he left in 2009.
Back then Sir Alex Ferguson ruled the roost and everything went through him at Old Trafford.
If there was a problem on or off the pitch the fiery Scot dealt with it in the only way he knew how – by administering his infamous hairdryer treatment.
And a young Ronaldo found himself in the firing line on more than one occasion during his first spell at Old Trafford; one incident following a poor display from the young Portuguese winger against Benfica.
An excerpt from Guillem Balague's book Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography recalls what happened immediately after the final whistle was blown. It reads: "In the dressing room, Ferguson could not contain himself: 'Who do you think you are?
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Cristiano Ronaldo is struggling to wield influence at Manchester United
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
"Trying to play by yourself? You'll never be a player if you do this!'
"Ronaldo began to cry. The other players left him be. 'He needed to learn,' said [Rio] Ferdinand. 'That was a message from the team, not just from Ferguson: everyone thought he needed to learn.'"
Ronaldo soon got over his tears and set about becoming one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game.
Since Ferguson's retirement player power has grown substantially and while no individual may be bigger than their respective club, they certainly have more say when it comes to their careers.
In the modern era, Ronaldo has perhaps more player power than anyone else in the sport.
And it is therefore interesting that his attempt to wield influence at Manchester United has been somewhat archaic.
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In a recent interview with Sky Sports, Ronaldo opened up on his relationship with the younger players at United and explained why he struggles to get through to them – they're apparently too sensitive to criticism.
"The mature players, the older players, can always help the younger players," he said.
"But I can give you an example if I give you advice, even if you are younger than me, but if that's not in your plan during your daily life then it will be difficult. You can speak all day with that person, but if it's not coming from inside of you then it is impossible.
"I can remember when I was 18, 19, 20, some older players spoke to me but I put that as 'Cristiano, you have to improve, they know more than you, they are more experienced than you, they passed through many bad moments'.
"But the other people do not accept that if you criticise them – I don't say this generation of our players but in general, I have kids, I know. Sometimes if you be a little bit harder they do the opposite. You have to find the right balance to speak with them.
"But in my opinion, the main point is it should come from inside you. You should be proud of yourself and look in the mirror and say 'Listen, I give everything' and I think all of us should do that because new year, we change the page and we have many things to win.
Ronaldo has more player-power than perhaps any individual in the game
AFP via Getty Images)
"We have to believe in that, if not, it will be a nightmare."
Ronaldo's comments suggest he is approaching tackling the crisis at Man United in the same way Ferguson would have in 2003 – by getting in the face of the younger players to inspire a response.
But he has quickly found that the world has moved on and most managers no longer operate in this way.
His confrontational approach has instead caused him to become something of an outcast, with The Athletic reporting that not only did Ronaldo's Sky Sports interview go down badly with the younger players at United, but they also find him difficult to approach.
Former Man United boss Jose Mourinho recently touched upon the changing landscape of a dressing room, where he too suggested the hairdryer approach is now outdated.
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Mourinho said of one of his Man United stars in 2018: "I had recently one of my players, who I was just coaching them, and when I coach on the pitch I like to feel free.
"Because I like to feel like I'm in a family and I am free to criticise anyone. One player said to me, and he was very polite not confrontational, but he said please when you want to criticise me can you do it in private.
"I asked why. And he said he didn't feel comfortable being criticised in front of other players. Nowadays you have to be very smart in the way you read your players and their personalities and try to create the best situation."
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