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Ronaldo just another player at Mourinho's Madrid

They were once rivals, verbally sparring with each other in unsavoury fashion, yet compatriots Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo are now united by one goal.

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Mourinho famously accused Ronaldo of being a "diver" during the days when he was the outspoken Chelsea manager and the winger was a threat to his dreams as Manchester United's star turn, yet their spats have been forgotten as the Portuguese comrades aim to bring the glory days back to Real Madrid.

Ahead of Wednesday night's Champions League opener against Martin Jol's Ajax at the Bernabeu, Mourinho has done his best to take the heat off his £80 million superstar by insisting his newly remodelled Real Madrid team will only succeed if the collective unit work in tandem with their star figure, rather than relying on one man to inspire their glory.

"Too much focus was put onto Cristiano last season and, to his credit, the response he gave was magnificent, but the responsibility of my teams means we have a different attitude at this club now," believes Mourinho, whose legendary ability to make his players feel as special as he believes himself to be is already coming to the fore in his latest posting.

"When you are looking to one player to win matches for you every week, he will suffer as much along with the team. If the opposition find a way to stop him or he has a bad day, this can be the end and it is no way for a top team to operate.

"My philosophy has always been that we are a group, not individuals trying to win for ourselves. The group effort is more powerful than one star and this mentality worked well with my Porto team, my Chelsea team, my Inter Milan team.

"Real Madrid has often been about the individuals, but I want to bring a different focus, which should help Cristiano. He is not the only match winner in this team and he won't play in a position where all the expectation is on him. He needs freedom to express himself, not a strict position. He must have freedom to do what he does best.

"The new players we have signed must stand up and make sure they do not wait for their team-mates to make the difference. A squad can only be successful if every part of the machine works and this is the aim at Real Madrid this season."

Mourinho admits he has been hugely impressed by Ronaldo's work ethic in his first few weeks as Real Madrid boss, with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson among those he has turned to for advice on how to handle the 2008 World Player of the Year.

"Ferguson told me you cannot find a kid with a better attitude in training and working hard and this has been true as Cristiano has been fantastic since I came to Madrid," he said. "The boy has had some problems with his ankle in the last couple of weeks, but his effort for the team when he came back without too much training was perfect.

"Overall, his physical conditioning is excellent, but there is so much time for Cristiano to become a better player. He is only 25 and the aim for me and my staff is to make sure he become the best player he can be during our time at this club.

"Cristiano should begin to reach his peak in the next few years. It's exciting to believe he could improve from what he produced at United and with Real Madrid last season, but he knows it is possible. I have total belief in him."

Mourinho and Ronaldo are already feeling some early season heat after the Bernabeu faithful reacted negatively to the side's inspiring 1-0 La Liga win over Osasuna on Saturday night, with abuse from his own fans an unfamiliar obstacle for Mourinho to deal with after years of unbroken success in his extraordinary managerial career.

However, the new Real Madrid boss will know those jeers will be quickly turned around if he pieces together a side capable of ending almost a decade of failure in the Champions League, though the two-time winner of Europe's elite competition is keen to play down suggestions that his Midas touch will be instantly successful in the Spanish capital.

"There is big pressure at this club as you cannot be like the manager at Arsenal and ask for five years to try and to win one trophy," he said, failing to resist the temptation of offering another gentle jab at his old foe from his days in London, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.

"Can you imagine if I said to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, please give me five years and I will try to win you one trophy? Or if I arrived at Real Madrid and asked for five years to win something? I don't think the President or the supporters would accept this idea. The demand at this club is to win from the first season and to keep winning until the day you walk away or you are told to leave.

"The game against Osasuna was not the most exciting and the supporters are entitled to say they did not enjoy it. What everyone needs to understand is we are at the start of a new story, we have yet to concede a goal and we managed to beat Osasuna without giving them any chances. I understand that the supporters at this club like to see exciting football, but my job is to give winning football with excitement.

"The best teams understand what they are best at and use those strengths. My Inter Milan side was not so quick, so we had no option other than to identify our quality and play in a certain way. We needed to work as a unit, to play as a solid block and get the best out of the players in our team.

"This is not negative, this is just sensible. The great teams play with their best asset and by following this idea, Inter beat the champions of England, the champions of Spain and the champions of Germany to win the treble. You cannot have any more than that."

If Mourinho ends Real Madrid's long wait for their tenth Champions League crown at Wembley next May, the sceptics, boo-boys and fantasists casting doubts about him right now will all fall neatly in line behind this fascinating manager once again.


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