Sir Alex Ferguson adopted unfamiliar Cristiano Ronaldo approach in “crazy” Man Utd clash

Sir Alex Ferguson played a huge part in Cristiano Ronaldo’s career, but he also faced the task of stopping the Portuguese attacker during his time as Manchester United manager

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  • 19:58, 12 Oct 2021
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Phil Jones has recalled the time Sir Alex Ferguson asked him to man-mark Cristiano Ronaldo during Manchester United ’s Champions League match against Real Madrid in 2013.


United were unfortunate to draw Real Madrid in the last-16 of the competition in 2012/13, with the first leg away from home in the Spanish capital.

Ronaldo was the clear threat to Ferguson’s side, having scored 34 goals in 33 games that season coming into the tie on February 13.

Captain Nemanja Vidic was missing from the game, but Ferguson raised eyebrows by naming Jones, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans in his starting line-up.

But it was not a five-man defence for United in Madrid; instead Jones lined up at the base of midfield and was given a very specific task by his manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson asked Phil Jones to man-mark Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013

ANDREW YATES/AFP via Getty Images)

“That’s probably one of my stand-out games for United, at the Bernabeu,” he told the UTD Podcast .

“Cristiano was playing for them at the time and I remember the manager said to me, ‘wherever he goes, you follow him’.

“So, I went up for our corners just to be able to run back with him. I didn’t go up to score or anything, it was just so I ran back before he ran back, so the counter-attack wasn’t there. It was a crazy game.”

Danny Welbeck gave United the lead from Wayne Rooney’s corner but Ronaldo was not silenced by Jones completely.

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The Portuguese forward rose above Patrice Evra to head in an equaliser after 30 minutes before David de Gea made a string of impressive saves to ensure United went home with a 1-1 draw.

The away goal ultimately counted for nothing, as Real Madrid won the return leg 2-1 at Old Trafford, thanks in part to a controversial red card for Nani.

But Jones’s efforts were not forgotten by Ferguson, who spoke to the defender about the match in May.

“I was with a few of the other lads, and for him to say that, to say he hadn't forgotten about you and understand what you did, was really nice,” Jones said.

Phil Jones had a tough task against Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

“You don’t really get [a] chance to look back at your career, it's only when you finish that you do that and look at how well you played. It was a nice feeling.”

Jones has not played for United since January 2020 due to injury, but could be involved in Saturday’s match against Leicester City, with Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane on the sidelines.

Jones has been training with the first team recently and has been delighted to play alongside Ronaldo for the first time.

“It’s incredible to have him back at the club, he’s a legend here,” he added.

“The fans love him, you could see that in his first game back at Old Trafford. Just the way he conducts himself in and around the training ground. The aura he has when he’s here.

“He’s a nice human being first and foremost. People don’t realise he’s just a human being at the end of the day. He might be an incredible footballer and the best in the world but he’s a dad and people just forget all that sort of stuff. It’s great to have him back.”

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