Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has revealed how he helped to improve a young Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring abilities.
Ronaldo emerged as one of the world’s best in the 2007/08 season at Old Trafford scoring 31 goals in the Premier League.
And Dutch coach Meulensteen has recalled how he and his backroom staff had worked to turn the Portuguese forward into the unerringly clinical scoring machine he later became.
“He was suspended for the first few games [after being sent off at Portsmouth], so every time the team went off I’d stay to work with him,” Meulensteen said in an interview with Training Ground Guru. “A lot of the time it was just me and him. We worked on his appreciation of scoring goals.
“He always wanted to score the perfect goal, a 25-yarder into the top corner. I told him you will get in many more positions to score than that – and you can learn from the great scorers United have had, Law, Van Nistelrooy, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer.
“One of the main things was setting targets. Research has shown that people who set clear targets have a lot more success than those who don’t. I still remember the exchange we had at Carrington: ‘How many goals did you score last season?’ ‘23’. ‘Well, you should go for 40.’ ‘What?! Nearly double?’ ‘But you’ve never even practised finishing properly before.’
“With Mick [Phelan] and Carlos we set about the process of making him aware about his position and making him understand what to do in different positions. We did a lot of work on finishing from different angles.
“I had a format where I divided the penalty area into zones and you think about what to do in each of the different zones – lace kick, chip, inside foot, one touch or two, do you move into a different zone and so on.
“Then you break down the key elements of what makes a good finish. So now he’s aware of position, the type of ball coming in, how he’s going to receive it and the type of finish.
“The free kick was another one he started to work on. That was his idea. The only thing I said was, ‘take a step to the side, so your approach is more natural with your leg.’ We filmed it so he could see the difference and he developed and evolved it. He wanted to get better and put the practice in.”