Posted: 08.09.21 at 13:32 by Monty Panesar
One of Manchester United’s greatest players is back and it is clear that the role of Sir Alex Ferguson, a true father figure, was a crucial factor in the return of Ronaldo.
As a sportsman, if you can develop something close to a father and son relationship with a coach or mentor it can bring real benefits for the individual and team.
I can think of a few key people in my own career, who each taught me so much in terms of combining the right skills with mental toughness while at the same time offering real care for me as an individual.
Putting aside sentiment, United have already more than made back their investment in the player with the club’s Stock Market value soaring by more than £200 million following the news.
It should also be remembered that the real winners are Adidas, who have signed a ten-year merchandising deal with Premier League giants worth some £750million.
At one point, it was strongly rumoured that the great Portuguese player was going to sign for arch-rivals Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. But the tide quickly turned once he reportedly received a call from former team mate and great friend, Rio Ferdinand, with an appeal for loyalty to Sir Alex and the warning: “You can’t’ turn you back on the gaffer”.
The iconic number 7 jersey has previously been worn by club icons like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Now, it returns to the man who succeeded Beckham in it.
In cricket, we have seen MS Dhoni wear the same famous number and I should also mention it was my number in County cricket, along with 77 in One Day Internationals.
When I arrived in the England cricket team, a lot was made of the idea that I had only one delivery. I remember that Ronaldo was frequently disparaged for being a ‘one-trick pony’ – with unnecessary step-overs - and being a diver. At least he was athletic, maybe I should have got in touch with his personal trainer.
There have been several people in my own career who helped me to play my part in England’s success on the cricket pitch.
I first met Dave Parsooth when I was 21 and training with Luton Town and Indians Cricket Club. I was in the clubhouse and he asked what I thought was the equation for success in sport?
I wasn't too sure, so I replied ‘50per cent mental and 50per cent physical’. But, he was very adamant that it was really 90per cent mental focus and application, while the physical side was 10per cent.
In simple terms, the philosophy was that it was important to prepare mentally for each hour of training, to ensure it was always the best quality, while also building mental toughness for games.
I remember doing yoga in the morning, reading to create patience and properly managing my time and sleep.
Mark Robinson was good to me at Sussex. He was a very caring guy and always wanted to know "What is happening in Monty World?”. That care for individuals and his coaching methods led to better team performances and taught me how to win.
Former player, coach and mentor, Neil Burns, always wanted to bring the fight out of me in a match context. We would train to exhaustion to learn that lesson of how to deliver the same skills at a high level even when physically tired.
This certainly prepared me for the India series of 2012, which is the first time England had won there in some 27 years.
Ronaldo arrived at United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 as a young boy. He became particularly close to Sir Alex when his father fell ill in 2005.
He wanted to go and see his father despite the fact that the team faced some important games, yet Sir Alex assured him that he should take as much time as he needed.
For a sportsman it is tough to miss games but for a coach or manager to emphasise that family comes first, genuinely takes so much pressure off.
He made Ronaldo feel like Manchester United was his family, the club was his home. Only special coaches can do that.
Ronaldo is a winner and, on his return, he remains hungry to repeat his past glories.
While Sir Alex now follows United from the stands, a picture of the two together in 2022 under the banner, “We did it one more time”, would be perfect validation of relationship based on a deep personal bond and trust, which is a credit to both of them.
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