Scottish Daily Mail


Tomorrow, 11pm, Manaus. LIVE on BBC1 Referee: Nestor Pitana (Arg)


TIM HOWARD remembers the moment he peered out into a filthy grey Mancunian day and saw a gifted young novice blossoming into a superstar. It was autumn 2003 and training had finished at Manchester United’s Carrington base. Most of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad had headed for sanctuary but Cristiano Ronaldo remained out in the elements, practising and refining his repertoire of tricks. The Portuguese may divide opinion for a perceived desire to be centre of attention but what is beyond doubt is his standing as the best player in the world. As Howard explains, that tag is only possible because of the work he put in a decade ago when the pair — who lock horns tomorrow — had made their moves to Old Trafford. ‘From day one he had the flash and the flair but there was always something there,’ Howard explains. ‘Everyone sees the underwear commercial­s, the girlfriend­s and the cars but, trust me, his work ethic is incredible. On the ball, in the gym, eating the right food. ‘Carrington is so big, there are acres, so the perimeter is massive. But he would just go out after training and dribble the ball in the rain — doing his step-overs, the ‘Cruyff’ turns, all the things you see on TV. He hadn’t honed his free-kick (style) back then, that came later. ‘It’s no surprise this is how he ended up. He’s incredible.’ Yet Ronaldo is on the brink of eliminatio­n. He will leave early if Portugal lose to the USA and Germany beat Ghana. ‘This is what you want from a World Cup, isn’t it? It’s a proper group,’ said Howard. ‘Expectatio­ns are high now, soccer is so much more popular in America.’

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