Four-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has hailed the role former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson played in the development of his career while he was at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese star said he learned “the art of football” while at United.

Ronaldo, 18 then, moved from Sporting Lisbon to England. He started playing for the fun of it initially but developed rapidly to become one of the best soccer stars on the planet. He won a Champions League title, three straight Premier League titles, an FA Cup and others during his time at United.

Since moving to Spanish side Real Madrid for world record transfer fee, Ronaldo has cemented his place as the best player in the world. He became Real Madrid’s all-time goal scorer with his consistent performance through the years.

Despite all these, Ronaldo has come out to say Ferguson set him up for success.

Alex Ferguson was a father for me in football. I learned many things, not just from the coach but the players. I improved not just my skills but my body too. In the five years that I was [at the club], I learned the art of football,” Ronaldo said.

Ronaldo spoke at the launch of his new Nike boots. He said when he arrived at United, Ferguson knew his potential and wanted him to wear the number 7 jersey famously worn by Eric Cantona, George Best and David Beckham. He said he accepted “the challenge” as he had to prove he was worthy. That number forms part of his trademark till date: CR7.

Ronaldo added that that period was “the beginning of [his] success in football” and “probably one of the most beautiful moments” of his football career.