Gary Neville has been critical of Cristiano Ronaldo since his return to Manchester United, and he has opted not to name the forward as one of the players he was certain would succeed
Neville spent his entire career with the Red Devils, making 400 league appearances over the course of 18 years.
Of course, Neville’s extended time at Old Trafford meant that he was in and amongst the squad during their dominant days and saw some of the world’s greatest players coming through the doors.
And the 46-year-old has revealed that the two players who he instantly was convinced by were Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Speaking on a transfer special for Sky Sports, Neville said: “There were two certainties.
“The one who I already knew was Wayne Rooney. It wasn’t even a risk, you just knew he would be absolutely unbelievable.
“Even though we had to wait for him to make his debut because he was injured, I never thought it would be a risk.
The other one I didn’t know but we spent a lot of money on him and it was Ruud van Nistelrooy.
“The first time I watched him in training, he did a shooting session and hit one and I went, ‘woah, you can’t kick a ball like that’.
“Sometimes you see things in training and just think to yourself, ‘that’s a proper player’.
“That was Ruud. He was the one who I didn’t know beforehand that I looked at straightaway in training and thought he was unbelievable.”
Rooney is United’s all-time top scorer (253) and regarded by many as one of the best strikers to ever grace the Premier League, making an impact on the international scene too with 53 goals in 120 appearances for England.
Although he enjoyed a shorter spell at the club (five years), Van Nistelrooy’s time at the Theatre of Dreams didn’t pass without success.
The Dutchman scored 95 goals in 150 league appearances for the club and also was United’s all-time top scorer in Europe for a short while. He won the Premier League once under Sir Alex Ferguson, whilst also collecting numerous individual accolades.
Some may be surprised that Ronaldo was not named as one of Neville’s inevitable stars, and potentially the Portuguese star’s return to United may have been a reason for not being involved in the conversation.
Neville hasn’t shied away from criticising his former teammate, with his mentality and attitude being questioned on several occasions by the pundit and other ex-footballers.
Speaking on Sky Sports after Ronaldo stormed off of the pitch at full time after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, Neville said: “At the end of the day, I love that lad [Ronaldo], he’s the best I’ve ever seen in my life at times, but don’t run off like that. I’m not having that.
“I don’t care how you’ve played, you need to go over and clap the fans at the end of the game. Get over to them, particularly when you’re the best player in the world, one of the greatest of all time. And there’s (Bruno) Fernandes whinging too. They’re the two senior players. It’s devastating for younger players when the two best players are looking at every other player like they’re not good enough.”
It remains to be seen whether Ronaldo can spearhead United’s revival, or whether he will opt to cut his return short and seek a move in the summer.