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Features, Articles and Interviews featuring Mick Clegg

Over the years Mick has been the subject of many interviews, features etc through his work at Manchester United. Since leaving the club in 2011 he has been the subject of many more reminiscing his role as coach and personal trainer to many elite athletes as well as his seed of speed philosophy and his future ambitions.


 

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Cristiano Ronaldo could play until he's 40 but I don't think he will return to Manchester United, reveals former coach Mick Clegg

    Ex-Man United coach Mick Clegg has heaped praise on Cristiano Ronaldo
    Clegg helped Ronaldo improve his body strength after his move
    He has tipped Ronaldo to carry on playing for another 10 years
    However he believes Ronaldo is happy with life at Real Madrid  

He may have the physique of a God and the footballing ability mere mortals can only dream of, but Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliance is all in the brain. The world's best player has turned 30 after a decade at the top. But the man who helped him on the road to greatness sees no reason why he cannot do it until he is 40. After all, he has fulfilled every target in a meticulous self-driven plan to the very top.

Mick Clegg was given the task of helping the shy Portuguese teenager develop into a man worth every penny of the £12million United paid for him in 2003.

If he had a pound every time an 18-year-old told him they were going to become the best player in the world, he would be very rich. However, something about Ronaldo that set him apart. The application and the rigourous detail he studied the game, as well as the frightening ability. Which is why Clegg is adamant Ronaldo is capable of beating Ryan Giggs in terms of longevity. 'If he's set in his mind, "I want to beat him", he'll go for it,' he said. 'The influences you have in your life will set so many standards for you. 'Ronaldo could play until he's 40. It all depends on how many people are gunning for him and if he gets injured it would cut it down. 'But work with Cristiano, as well as Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes, was all about the brain. It's not about the brawn.

'You see the skills and the power but it's the brain. A multitude of things are happening, it's the players that can see everything then react to it that did the best. 'He told me what he was going to do – become the best player in the world – then he did what was necessary when lots don't. 'I'd heard it hundreds of times before but it's all in the head, its fantasy. 'But he had a plan. He wanted more information and knew what he had to do. You can't just be it in your head, you've got to live it. 'It's like packing your bag to go on a journey and he packed his bag with everything possible.'

Ronaldo has gone on to win three Ballon d'Or awards – but Clegg revealed a conversation in 2006 that highlights the superstar's single-minded determination. 'He said, "I'm going to win Player of the Year," and I said it would take him an extra year,' he recalled. 'Cristiano was like, "No, I'll win it this year," and he did. Then I thought, this guy knows what he's talking about.' Ronaldo may be the best on the planet on a football field but his rise was largely developed in the confines of United's Carrington training base.

While others travelled to training, he was already in perfecting the art of injury prevention. When they were heading home, he was in the gym. Then there were the tricks out on the field. Some fans criticised him in his early days at Old Trafford, but Clegg knew it was all part of a plan. 'He'd come in almost every day, before and after,' he added. 'The morning would be half an hour of injury prevention. It was about balancing, twisting and turning and I'd learn how he moved. I don't need to see his face to know Cristiano is running. 'He'd do short sprints and twists and turns and would always have a ball with him – he'd even do weights with the bloody ball! 'Then in the afternoon he'd come in – bear in mind he'd already done 40 minutes extra on his skills – for between 40 minutes and an hour.

'He'd also try things out in training games and in first team matches. I remember seeing him try to go through a couple of players and the crowd was on him – they didn't realise he was practising his art. 'And the difference between him and other players was that if it went wrong, they wouldn't do it again – Cristiano would again and again. 'Some players just go out and play, he didn't. He'd say, 'Today I'm going to work on this,' that's why others got frustrated as they'd be like, 'My team's losing!' But it was all part of his development. 'It's all right doing it on your own or in a training game but in a game there's massive pressure as there's 70,000 at Old Trafford and millions watching on TV.  'If it was just trying things, you couldn't go along with it. But when you see that his whole life is housed around doing the right things you've got to give him time – which is what Sir Alex Ferguson did.'

It is difficult to think there have ever been doubts about Ronaldo. However, there were times when others needed reassurance. 'Cristiano never really had doubts but he knew sometimes he was going through a bad phase and things weren't quite working out,' Clegg added. 'And there were doubts among the staff, some of them were saying, 'We're not so sure he should be doing this or that.' It is difficult to look past Ronaldo's physique, he is a footballing machine.

But it was not gained by lifting huge weights. Instead it was that competitive edge, employing his own cook when he was just 19-years-old and input from United's then dietitian, Trevor Lee. 'There were some good athletes at United at that time and some were 25 or 28-years-old,' recalled Clegg. 'But he saw what others did and it registered what he needs to do. 'He always had an amazing back as he is from Madeira and did a lot of swimming, so he was easy to work with. As long as you didn't go crazy, you couldn't really overtrain him. 'If you did and he couldn't function properly the next day, he wasn't happy.

'He hated going too heavy with the weights as he couldn't function right the next day – he'd do just above bodyweight squats, so when he left he was doing about 80kgs and not too many reps either. 'It's like overwatering a plant. If you do too much it can have a disastrous effect but if you do a little bit, then another and another, that's what builds the structure. 'Cristiano came to the right place in the Premier League and he wanted to be the best in the world and that's where the sharpness of your sword and the strength of your shield are tested.' Much talk surrounds the future of Ronaldo. Will he come back to Old Trafford? Clegg is not convinced but he does believe that he would make a good manager one day. He said: 'Personally I don't think he'll be back. He had a plan to come to United and wasn't going to stay forever. He wants Real Madrid to become the greatest team ever.

'But he could become a manager. He's a natural leader and pulls people along who will follow.'


 

 Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid star's journey to the Ballon d'Or

Online BBC News Article By Alec Fenn (Football writer)

Cristiano Ronaldo wins Ballon d'OrCristiano Ronaldo wins Ballon d'Or

A spindly teenager with an unruly mop of curly hair strides through the corridors of Manchester United's Carrington training complex and embarks on his path to greatness. The 18-year-old makes his way into the gym and sees a vision beyond the ocean of dumbbells, cardiovascular machines and medicine balls.

He sees a culture of success and witnesses the camaraderie that binds together a group of winners with the same thirst for improvement. All the while, he envisages stitching his own patchwork around the template laid out before him and extracting every last ounce of potential from the talents gifted to him.

Cristiano Ronaldo's speed and skill were evident at the Estadio Jose Alvalde in a friendly against Manchester United for Sporting Lisbon in August 2003, assets and a performance which ultimately sealed a £12.24m transfer to Old Trafford days later.

It was in Manchester that the Portuguese sought out the expertise of a man by the name of Mike Clegg - the Old Trafford club's power development coach between 2000 and 2011 - as he began his quest to not only become the greatest player on earth, but an athlete with no equal in the modern game.

"He was a lively lad," Clegg told BBC Sport. "Carlos Queiroz was instrumental in getting him to United, but Sir Alex Ferguson did most of the talking and I observed the lad in front of me. He came across as a really determined boy and Ferguson and Carlos really liked that about him, but I didn't realise quite how determined he was until he came into Carrington and I got speaking to him. Ronaldo was a natural talent, a rough diamond, but he crammed in thousands and thousands of hours of graft to turn himself into the perfect player. I look at the other players who come and go with talent. Nani and Anderson both came in during 2007 at a similar age to Ronaldo, but the difference was astronomical. The difference was the understanding and the knowledge of how to become the best. Ronaldo was above everyone else."

The use of resistance-based workouts were unheard of at Carrington prior to Clegg's arrival, but football's evolution into a game dominated by athletes was just beginning, as basic programmes were introduced to improve functional, football-related strength among the squad. Players were initially trained to become proficient in the art of bench-pressing, pull-ups, dips and squats - now the staple gym diet of a top-level footballer.

Ryan Giggs, a man Clegg describes as the most open-minded to new training techniques, Roy Keane, a lover of boxing during his recuperation from a serious knee injury, and Paul Scholes, the star pupil during cognitive and peripheral vision tests, were three leading members of a gym culture that formed in the aftermath of United's treble-winning success at the turn of the millennium.

Ronaldo was a keen observer. A vacancy had arisen to join that elite group following the departure of David Beckham - another member of the 'gym club' - to Real Madrid, and though his English was limited at best and his frame more featherweight boxer than sculpted Adonis, Ronaldo wasted little time in turning his vision into reality.

His physical evolution incorporated all facets of athletic performance, with additional sprint and reaction work polishing up his raw, genetic gifts. But it was the mastering of strength workouts and Olympic lifts - total body exercises performed in an explosive manner at pace - that were behind the development of a muscular physique that has gone on to adorn billboards and magazine covers across the world.

Deadlifts and power cleans were two favourites in his gym routine, with the level of resistance and speed of execution slowly increased over his near six years in Manchester. Clegg added: "I would say, physically, he is the perfect specimen. From his height to his natural body type, muscular structure, how much fat he's got in his system, his endurance capacity, flexibility, power and strength - they are in perfect balance. He had in his mind, 'I need to make myself special and I'm going to have to learn everything I need to become special. I'm going to have to regiment my day and my week, months and years and become as good as I can be by every possible means.' He had a plan."

It seems strange looking back, but in Ronaldo's early years at the Theatre of Dreams there were doubts he would make the grade at all. His penchant for showboating rather than delivering the final pass and a fondness for falling over the outstretched legs of defenders a little too theatrically angered team-mates and opposition alike.

Each season, his manager, mentor and the man the 28-year-old still refers to as 'boss', Sir Alex Ferguson, would agree a pre-season wager over a target number of goals for the campaign. At the end of each of his first two seasons at the club, targets of 10 and 15 goals proved beyond him. He wasn't fazed. The sight of Ronaldo strapping weights to his ankles and perfecting step-overs long after his team-mates had headed for the showers became a common sight at Carrington.

He invested in himself financially too. The purchase of a house with a custom-built swimming pool to aid him in his recovery after sessions and matches was another sensible addition, while the hiring of a chef at his home ensured his diet was faultless.

Clegg said: "For every mistake he made in a game, he'd spend hours and hours and hours practising to make sure it didn't happen again. Generally with players, if they try something and it doesn't work, they don't try it again, they fear it - but he didn't. No chance. We did speed, power and reaction work, everything he needed and worked with on the pitch. So much of my work was tailored around him. I even went to Montreal and looked at cognitive devices and different ways of working that would extract that extra ounce out of him."

The hard work paid handsome dividends. Ronaldo lifted a hat-trick of Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009, as well as the Champions League in 2008 - a success which saw him named World Player of the Year for the first time that same year. In his own mind, his time at Old Trafford was done.

"He said to me, 'Mike, this is it. I've done everything here, I'm going to move on'. He supported Real Madrid and he knew it was time to leave," says Clegg. "He'd have loads of little sayings, 'Manchester, it's raining all the time,' he used to say, but he loved being here, yet he knew he was on a journey and he knew it was going to take him somewhere else."

That somewhere else was the Santiago Bernabeu, with destiny - and the small matter of a then world-record £80m transfer fee - seeing him move from United to Real Madrid in 2009. Trophies have been harder to come by in Spain, with Ronaldo winning one La Liga, one Copa del Rey and the Supercopa de Espana in his four years there to date, but on an individual basis he continues to surpass his own remarkable standards.

In 2013 alone, the Portugal captain scored 66 goals in 56 appearances and is already Madrid's fifth-highest goalscorer of all-time. There is surely little room left for improvement, but Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka, who worked alongside Ronaldo at Madrid for three years as Jose Mourinho's assistant, believes he can still get even better. "I had the pleasure of working with Cristiano every day. Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are definitely the two best players in the world," said the former Spain international. I think the difference is tiny between them both but I think when you look at the number of goals he has scored over the past year, then Ronaldo is the best. Ronaldo improves every day. Look at his numbers three years ago and you think, 'It's impossible he can do better,' and then you look at him this year and he's done better again. He's always improving and because of that, he is the best."

The Real Madrid player claimed the 2013 Fifa Ballon d'Or prize in Zurich on Monday, the second time he has been voted the world's best player.

Few who spent time around the gyms at Manchester United and Real Madrid would argue he deserves anything less.


Left-handed darts and ping-pong: Ryan Giggs' fitness secrets revealed

Daily Mirror Talks To Mick Clegg About Ryan GiggsDaily Mirror Talks To Mick Clegg About Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs took the bizarre step of playing table-tennis and darts left-handed to prolong his illustrious career with Manchester United.

Giggs has signed a new one-year contract extension to continue his remarkable career with United, which means he will be playing for them at the age of 40 next season.

But United's former fitness and conditioning coach Mick Clegg, who worked closely with Giggs for 11 years, has given a fascinating insight into the lengths the 39-year-old would go to stay at the top, at an age when most players have already retired.

Clegg, whom Cristiano Ronaldo credits with helping develop him into the formidable athlete he is today with the strength and conditioning work the pair did at United, said Giggs was open to anything that would extend his ability to compete at the highest level.

"Ryan is an incredibly open-minded athlete," said elite sports coach Clegg, in an interview with United Review.

"He regenerates his youth all the time by being open-minded. When I worked with him, he always allowed me to show him different things that I thought might help him. He would consider anything.

"Everyone knows Ryan does yoga. He did boxing and weightlifting too and has tried all sorts – he even gave trampolining a go when he was 34 or 35 – but one example still sticks with me.

"A few years ago, Ryan wasn’t happy with his crossing and he wanted to perfect it, but didn't know why he couldn't.

"By chance, I noticed that he wrote right-handed, and it didn't look right, so we chatted and I told him to spend more time working with his left hand to create a balance, because the right-hand side of your brain affects the left-hand side of your body, and vice-versa.

"We spent about a month playing left handed darts, table tennis – he was beating me with his left hand in about a minute – and it appeared more natural to him.

"From there we moved into the sports hall at Carrington to practice his crossing – he'd run along and chip the ball in at a gym ball that I was throwing up in the air.

"By the end, he was hitting the gym ball nine out of ten times – others tried and nobody could match him. Ryan would do virtually anything to get those extra parts of a percent to make himself better.


Man for all seasons: The secrets behind Ryan Giggs' longevity

The secrets Behind Ryan Giggs LongevityThe secrets Behind Ryan Giggs LongevityWe've heard often enough that the dictionary has nothing more to offer those attempting to describe Ryan Giggs. The man transcends definition, not least because he is a study in sporting evolution.

Examine the setting for Giggs' 1,000th career game, in his 40th year. Reaching such a marker would be a noteworthy feat even for the most battle-hardened lower-league clogger, but United’s record appearance-maker met the milestone as a right winger against Real Madrid in the Champions League and won the man-of-the-match award.

His senior career pre-dates the National Lottery, the commercialisation of the Internet and the birth of Phil Jones, yet still Giggs is as functional as he has ever been – arguably a better player than he was five years ago and quite possibly 10 years ago. Moreover, he is a different player. The jet-heeled whippet who scourged right-backs with his turf tapestry is long gone, but all of his experiences have been retained. He’s capable of operating on either wing, off a striker, in central midfield or, at a push, as an auxiliary left-back.

"His flexibility has improved with age," says United assistant manager Mike Phelan. "He can play in numerous positions now and adapt into those that require more maturity. He was seen as a wide player with great dribbling skills and pace and quality on the ball, whereas now he’s brought all those to the fore in different positions. Maturity gives you that."

There are complexities to being a 39-year-old footballer at the highest level, so being immersed in consistency has helped. Giggs has represented one club under one manager for almost a quarter of a century - an obvious boon. So too are the Welshman's physical attributes: a light, slender, aerodynamic frame built to last and resist the ravages of time.

According to those who have worked with Giggs, the secret to his perpetual evolution has been cerebral. "He's an incredibly open-minded athlete," says Mike Clegg, who worked with Giggs for over 11 years as United’s former strength and conditioning coach. "He regenerates his youth all the time by being open-minded. When I worked with him, he always allowed me to show him different things that I thought might help him. He would consider anything."


"I would like to address my role in today's edition of The Sun, in which I am quoted on the issue of Wayne Rooney's fitness." from Mick Clegg"I would like to address my role in today's edition of The Sun, in which I am quoted on the issue of Wayne Rooney's fitness." from Mick Clegg

Online Interview - The SUN 3rd July 2013


FIRST A STATEMENT FROM MICK CLEGG REGARDING THE INTERVIEW HE GAVE AND THE SUBSEQUENT MISQUOTES IN THE FINISHED ARTICLE

"Let me start at the beginning. Yesterday I received a phone call from Emma Foster, a reporter at The Sun, who said she wanted to write an article about players returning to pre-season training and the work that lay ahead for them. I agreed and she visited me yesterday afternoon, and we did the interview. It was fairly wide ranging on the matters of pre-season in general, plus specific player examples of Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. I answered the questions put to me and asked Miss Foster that I get copy approval before anything went to print. Although my experience of giving interviews is limited, I have learned that it is not always possible to say what you really think about something when you're put on the spot. I'm definitely more comfortable in my gym than in a spotlight! So I asked for copy approval and Miss Foster said that wouldn't be a problem. Then she later emailed me an article - as described - which began on the topic of pre-season and contained around 500 words of quotes from myself. Recognising that my quotes on Wayne were exposed to potentially being twisted, I emailed Miss Foster with slight amends and then never heard back from her. Then I awoke this morning to find mysef on page 3 of The Sun (something I never expected to say or see in my lifetime) quoted in a completely different version of the article.

I suppose it can be put down to naivity on my part on the workings of the media, but I have always been a positive person who looks for a way forward and there are two things that I can now do. Firstly, having detailed the underhanded working practices of the journalist in question, I can vow never to speak to The Sun again and also watch what I say and to whom.

Secondly, I can set the record straight on Wayne Rooney. Wayne is one of the most naturally gifted footballers this country has produced. As far as I am aware, he preferred playing football on the training pitch to doing work in the Carrington gym. That's not unusual for a footballer - not many see the gym as a source of enjoyment. With Wayne, he also had to consider the factor that his natural frame is very powerful - having boxed with him, I can vouch for how powerful he is - and he had very legitimate concerns of bulking up too much if he spent too much time in the gym. That would have been detrimental to his performance on the pitch, which went against the point of our role on the fitness side of the club.

The articles at large today say that Cristiano Ronaldo left Wayne behind because of his attitude to the gym. In truth, Cristiano left everybody behind. I have been fortunate enough to work with the likes of Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, David Beckham and many others, but none could match Cristiano's dedication to the benefits of gym work. That's not to their detriment, it's simple fact. Cristiano is, in the nicest sense, a freak within football. Wayne Rooney did apply himself to the gym, but just not as much as Ronaldo. Nobody did. Wayne really came into his own when he was boxing with me."

"He loved it. He also put in an unbelievable effort and time to get fit with myself and Alan Smith, who was also injured, when he was racing to get back for the 2006 World Cup after breaking a bone in his foot. The motivation of making sure he didn't miss the World Cup changed Wayne's attitude to gym work because, in a short-term sense, it was do or die. In those circumstances, Wayne showed himself to be an amazing athlete, not fat, lazy or whatever other terms are being thrown at him today as a result of my interview. I am upset - both with The Sun and also myself - that my quotes have been used to fuel what I believe is an existing agenda against Wayne.

Let me say this: There is no crime in putting in less gym time than Cristiano Ronaldo because, from my experience, 99.99% of footballers fall into that category."

Mick Clegg

The sun article where Mick Clegg was misquoted regarding wayne RooneyThe sun article where Mick Clegg was misquoted regarding wayne Rooney

exclusive

WAYNE Rooney was never as good as Man United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo because he hated the gym, a former coach has revealed.

Wazza — who has been plagued by doubts over his weight and fitness — simply did not want to work out, the former club official said.

Ex-fitness coach Mick Clegg revealed: “Wayne didn’t see the importance of the gym really. He’d say, ‘I’m here to play football’. I always wish I could have pushed Wayne that bit further.” Rooney and Ronaldo, 28, were at Old Trafford for five years together until the Portuguese star went to Real Madrid in 2009.

Mick went on: “Wayne was always a big lad and was afraid of bulking up if he spent too much time in the gym. “That’s what set Cristiano Ronaldo apart. He would do whatever training I prescribed and more. “He lived and breathed football 24/7 and his dedication was phenomenal.

“Wayne could still be as good as Cristiano if he emulated his attitude to the gym — he is an amazing athlete when he puts his mind to it.”

Rooney, 27, who spent last week downing cider and scoffing junk food at Glastonbury, now faces tough pre-season training under new boss David Moyes. Football is rife with speculation that he may leave Man Utd — while Ronaldo may be making a return.

By EMMA FOSTER
Published: 3rd July 2013


Below are Mick's ACTUAL words as given to the reporter which were about the pre-season return for training as he was informed the Sun interview subject was about.

United’s former fitness coach said that it will be a nervous day for the lads as they return to pre-season training.
Mick Clegg, who spent over a decade training stars including Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, in strength and conditioning work, said: “Of course it’s a nerve-racking time for the players.
“There’s so much at stake what with contracts and things going on.
“But it’s an exciting day and really good for the coaches because all the players will be super keen and eager to impress.
“They will start off with a warm up and then there will be different fitness tests then they might have a bit of a kick about.
“It’s not always the best time to test fitness levels as obviously the lads come back with different levels of fitness.
“Some will have looked after themselves well over the summer, whereas others will have let their hair down a bit.
“Some lads do come in in not the best shape but they need a break from football – getting away gives them an opportunity to recharge their batteries and come back with a real appetite for the next season.
"Then the fitness staff will develop a programme for each player to get them match fit.
"It's always a really exciting time oft he season as everyone gears up for the first game.”
Mick said out of all the players he trained at Old Trafford, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was the most impressive player he had worked with..
He said: “Cristiano's dedication was phenomenal .
“He was like a sponge – he wanted to know everything he could do to improve every aspect of his performance.
“He really raised the bar for professional footballers.
“Lots of the players didn’t really see the importance of gym work or strength and conditioning work – they’d rather be out on the pitch player.
"But all of the players are different - Ryan Giggs really took to yoga and that has helped him remain at the top of his game for so long - but not many of the lads wanted to do yoga.
“Wayne Rooney really liked boxing - he really took to sessions where we incorporated boxing.
"But he didn’t enjoy the gym work really - He'd always prefer to focus on the football side of things because that was where his natural talents lay.
"Wayne has always had a powerful frame and often he was afraid of bulking up too much if he spent too much time in the gym - which would have been detrimental to his performance on the pitch.
"Whereas Ronaldo would do whatever training I prescribed and more. He lived and breathed football 24/7 - his dedication was phenomenal - he believed he'd become the best and he did.
"Wayne could still be as good as Cristiano if he emulated his attitude to the gym - he is an amazing athlete when he put his mind to it.
"There were times like when he broke his metatarsal before the 2006 World Cup that he really dedicated himself to his fitness regime and the results were amazing,
“I’d love Wayne to turn round and say: ‘Right that’s it, I’m going to stretch my limits now.’
“He’s got to have the appetite for it and I’m sure one day he will really go for it."


 

Mick Clegg talks about how Ronaldo became the bestMick Clegg talks about how Ronaldo became the bestby Andy Mitten

Manchester United’s new signing wasn’t the shy and retiring type.

“Cristiano was 18 and didn’t waste time telling everyone that he was going to be the best player in the world,” recalls his former team-mate Quinton Fortune. “The rest of the players found it more amusing than arrogant. They rated him because they saw what he could do in training, but players like Ryan Giggs told him not to say such things publicly because he would only pile pressure on himself. Ronaldo laughed at that as if to say, ‘I can deal with anything’.” Not since Eric Cantona had United seen a player with so much self-assurance. New acquisitions may arrive at Old Trafford with exalted reputations, but they still have to prove their worth. Ronaldo had already proved his by tormenting the United defence in a friendly game to open the new home of his former club, Sporting Lisbon. His only ambition was to improve.

Mike Clegg was one of the men responsible for training Ronaldo every day. United’s power development coach between 2001-2011, he’s run the Olympic Sports Gym in Ashton-under-Lyne, eight miles east of Manchester, for the last three decades. Clegg came to United’s attention after two of his sons joined the club. Michael junior was part of the 1995 FA Youth Cup winning team with David Beckham and went onto play nine games for the first team. He now works as a coach at Sunderland. His brother Steven played for United’s reserves before becoming a strength and conditioning coach at Carrington. He worked with his dad and all the United stars daily, but one of them stood out as being more dedicated than the rest.

“From the day he walked through the door at Carrington to the day he left, Cristiano Ronaldo was the greatest trainer I ever worked with,” recalls Mike Clegg. “He took on a new level of total dedication to his training because he wanted to be the best footballer in the world. He filled his time with football, his whole life was dedicated to it. He even had his own cook so that he was eating well all the time, he made sure he bought a house with a swimming pool so that he could do more training.”

“Some players over-do it,” he says. “I’ve seen players train themselves into the ground because of insufficient knowledge, but Ronaldo was more intelligent than that. He’d train hard, but he’d listen to the specialists around him, the coaches, the manager, the other players like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He took their advice in pursuit of personal excellence.” Ronaldo would arrive early so he could prepare properly. “He’d be in the gym with me doing core work, then he’d do activation, then his actual football training.” Training done, that was the point at which most footballers went home. “Cristiano would come back into the gym and do some power work for his legs,” recalls Mike. “Then he would go home, eat the right food, swim, sleep, where I’m sure he dreamed about football, and come back in the next morning. He did that for five or six years and, knitted together, that made him become the player who was sold for £80 million.”

They say you need to put 10,000 hours in before you can become great at something, be it painting or playing the guitar. Ronaldo did that – and more. “He arrived at 18, the perfect time. Some players at that age go through a funny phase where they doubt themselves or think they are better than what they are. They curtail training. Had they done what Ronaldo did, they could have been far better. “Some of the other United players are excellent trainers, but they didn’t quite do as much as Ronaldo. He was a really nice person too.”

Clegg no longer works with United, but he’s involved with several professional sports stars, including footballers. He’s looking forward to tonight’s game, though he’s reluctant to predict the outcome.“I never do predictions,” concludes Clegg. “Predictions influence your observation because you hope that the outcome is what you want it to be. A coach should be impartial, so you can thoroughly observe what’s going on. “I worked with all those great United players and only ever watched out for them, not their opponents. The other team didn’t matter. You have to be impartial.” There will be few impartial people inside Old Trafford tonight. Tickets with a face value of £40 are going for £500 on the black market. Most want to see United win, they also want to see their former hero do well. But not too well, you’ll understand.


 

Ryan Giggs always strives to 'write' wrongs as he prolongs his career at ManUnited well into 40

Mancunian mattersMancunian matters
Ryan Giggs is so dedicated to his craft he will even change his writing hand to get better, according to former Manchester United fitness coach Mike Clegg.

Stories of the 39-year-old’s commitment to his football are wide-spread – yoga, weightlifting and boxing have helped him to prolong his career far beyond a footballer’s normal life-span.

But Clegg revealed after Giggs was left unhappy by his crossing a few years ago, the Welshman went to even greater lengths to improve.

“Ryan would do virtually anything to get those extra parts of a per cent to make himself better,” he told manutd.com

“By chance, I noticed that he wrote right-handed, and it didn’t look right, so we chatted and I told him to spend more time working with his left hand to create a balance.

“This is because the right-hand side of your brain affects the left-hand side of your body, and vice-versa.

“We spent about a month playing left handed darts, table tennis – he was beating me with his left hand in about a minute – and it appeared more natural to him.

“From there we moved into the sports hall at Carrington to practice his crossing – he’d run along and chip the ball in at a gym ball that I was throwing up in the air.

“By the end, he was hitting the gym ball nine out of ten times – others tried and nobody could match him.”

Giggs announced a fresh one-year contract last month, guaranteeing he will play for the Red Devils into his 40s.

And Clegg believes the secret to his age-defying magic is his willingness to adapt with the times.

“He regenerates his youth all the time by being open-minded,” he added.

“When I worked with him, he always allowed me to show him different things that I thought might help him.”


Mick Clegg talks to Manchester Evening news about Cristiano Ronaldo's total dedication to being the bestMick Clegg talks to Manchester Evening news about Cristiano Ronaldo's total dedication to being the bestEx-Reds’ coach Mike Clegg on how Cristiano Ronaldo’s total dedication to football was also in a league of its own
5 Mar 2013 10:34

From the day he walked through the door at Carrington to the day he left, Cristiano Ronaldo was the greatest trainer I ever worked with. So said Mike Clegg, sitting in the state-of-the-art Olympic Sports Gym which he has run for three decades in Ashton-under-Lyne. Many professional sportsmen go to him to improve. He’s well known and respected locally, but between 2000-2011 he was the power development coach at United.Two of his sons, Michael and Steven, played for United, Michael for the first team, Steven for the reserves. Two other sons, Mark and Shaun, were national and international weightlifting champions.

Clegg Senior held the bags for Roy Keane to punch and watched Ryan Giggs continually open his mind to new ideas on how to extend his longevity on a football field, but he never saw a player train like Ronaldo. “He took on a new level of total dedication to his training because he wanted to be the best footballer in the world,” he said. “He filled his time with football, his whole life was dedicated to it. He even had his own cook so that he was eating well all the time, he made sure he bought a house with a swimming pool so that he could do more training. “Some players over-do it. I’ve seen players train themselves into the ground because of insufficient knowledge, but Ronaldo was more intelligent than that. He’d train hard, but he’d listen to the specialists around him, the coaches, the manager, the other players like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He took their advice in pursuit of personal excellence.”Ronaldo would also arrive early so he could prepare properly. “He’d be in the gym with me doing core work, then he’d do activation, then his actual football training.”

Training done, that was the point at which most footballers went home. “Cristiano would come back into the gym and do some power work for his legs,” recalls Clegg. “Then he would go home, eat the right food, swim, sleep, where I’m sure he dreamed about football, and come back in the next morning. He did that for five or six years and, knitted together, that made him become the player who was sold for £80m. “They say you need to put 10,000 hours in before you can become great at something, be it painting or playing the guitar. Ronaldo did that – and more. “He arrived aged 18, the perfect time. Some players at that age go through a funny phase where they doubt themselves or think they are better than what they are. They curtail training. Had they done what Ronaldo did, they could have been far better. “Some of the other United players are excellent trainers, but they didn’t quite do as much as Ronaldo. He was a really nice person too.”

Paul Scholes was not like Ronaldo. “He was the opposite in many ways,” recalled Clegg. “He’d get ill, he had asthma. I wouldn’t consider him an athlete. His endurance capacity was low, he wasn’t strong, quick or powerful. His strength was in his ability to see around him better than any other player. His cognitive processing was better than any other player, he knew exactly what was going on around him. He was the best at reactions.”

Clegg got on well with Keane, the pair sharing a love of boxing. “Roy would wind me up until I told him to shut up,” revealed Clegg. “He encouraged me to have a go at him, he liked to stimulate aggression from everyone around him and that made him successful. He turned amateur boxing techniques into boxing for football, boxing-type training for reactions, speed, balance and power.” Rio Ferdinand also was a top trainer. “Rio loved his body and being in shape,” said Clegg. “He’s a great presence and players listen to him. David Beckham bought some boxing gloves off me, but saved his best efforts for football training rather than the gym. Wayne Rooney is like that, he loves boxing and actual football training, but not the gym work as much.” Clegg’s former students go up against his most dedicated former player tonight. He doesn’t want to venture a prediction, but whoever wins will owe part of their success to the hard work he is proud to have guided them through.


 

Mick Clegg's Visit to Pittsburgh in 2010
Aug. 6, 2010
Mick Clegg at PittsburghMick Clegg at PittsburghIn the last decade as Manchester United’s strength and conditioning coach, Mike Clegg has used his knowledge and skill to help craft countless world-renowned soccer icons: players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney — each of whom have heard their names echoed across the globe in recent years. On Thursday, he had a chance to share some of his knowledge and experience in a different way, as he met and spoke with Pitt men’s soccer coach Joe Luxbacher and women’s coach Sue-Moy Chin. Clegg, who is visiting and working with UPMC during his visit, also met with Panther strength and conditioning coach Ted Dworek and spoke briefly to both teams.

Luxbacher said the chance to talk with Clegg — who comes from one of the worlds most famous, successful and storied dynasties — was tremendous. “It was a great opportunity to pick his brain and see what they do in season and out of season,” said Luxbacher, who’s coached the Panthers since 1984. “With fitness training and strength training, there’s a fine line between being very fit and being over-trained. The chance to talk about the quantity and quality of work they do and what their fitness standards are…maybe they do something that we don’t use. It turns out that we have a lot of similar philosophies, and it was a great chance to sit down and exchange ideas.”

Mick Clegg lecturing at PittsburghMick Clegg lecturing at PittsburghThe quality of opponents is one similarity between United and Pitt. The Panthers play in the always-powerful Big East Conference, which constantly produces top talent in the U.S. United, meanwhile, competes professionally in England’s prestigious Premier League, which is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest. As United’s strength and conditioning coach, Clegg has the responsibility of bringing the squad’s players to their best possible condition for each match. Weight training, speed work and injury prevention are a few of the many things he focuses on.

And now, Clegg, who has been with United since 2000, is in his first-ever trip to Pittsburgh. He’s preparing to open a new gym for United’s youth academy, and is looking into the physical and mental development of younger players. “When you train adults and then go work with younger players, you have to realize that they’re completely different,” he said. “The adult players totally know themselves, and that’s one of the most important things as an athlete. Young kids really don’t know themselves, especially with injuries and things like that. “I’ve been to the United States many times, but this is my first time in Pittsburgh, and everybody’s been so good to me.”

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