And they included the Dutchman making some sacrifices of his own.
Speaking in the November issue of FourFourTwo magazine, the former United stopper was asked why it was Ronaldo and not fellow teammate Wayne Rooney who kicked on to become the player that we know today, when both were considered to be at a similar level when they were younger.
And the 46-year-old – who won four Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League with the club – gave a fairly detailed answer.
“They both worked incredibly hard on the pitch, but Cristiano took it up a level,” he said.
“Off the field, Ronaldo was also focusing on everything extensively, such as resting up properly and strengthening his body.
“After training sessions he would often work on his free-kicks and then come to me and say: “Edwin, can you go in goal?”
“I’d say I was old so he would be better off using one of the youth-team keepers, but he would insist I went in goal as he wanted to score past me.
“I would tease him a lot and say things like: “You won’t score against me, Ronnie, you know it. Ask the reserve goalie, that’s better for your confidence.
“He’d get agitated and reply: “No, no. You’ve got to go in goal!”
Van der Sar would seemingly oblige, allowing Ronaldo to hone his technique against one of the best goalkeepers Europe has seen this century.
And his respect for the Portuguese is still evident.
“Cristiano is a really good guy, however” Van der Sar added. “And the common perception of him is not a true reflection of his personality.”
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Would Wayne Rooney have become as good as Cristiano Ronaldo with a bit more dedication?
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