Cristiano Ronaldo has wowed United fans with his trickery, goals and fantastic wing-play this term. Having won every individual award going, and a Premiership winners' medal to boot, we ask him, 'how was it for you?'...
You signed a new deal last month, how pleased are you to have sorted out your future?
I am pleased that everything is sorted now. I believe I am at the right club and I am really happy here. The big reason I wanted to stay is to win trophies and because I’m enjoying playing in this team. The spirit is amazing at this club and everyone is playing with confidence.
It has been reported that both Real Madrid and Barcelona would like to sign you, what makes this the right club for you?
Everything. I’m happy here with my colleagues, my friends, the coaches and the staff. I'm enjoying all of it, everything is good for me. Everyone at here has helped me in my short career and I feel like I’ve improved a lot since arriving when I was 18. I came at a young age and I've learned a lot, but I think I can still improve. This is a good moment for me and I want to keep it going.
You’ve won a host of individual awards, could you have imagined this season would be so successful for you?
No, I didn’t. But I don’t approach a season thinking about how well I will do personally. I am confident in myself and my ability, but the main thing is that I am enjoying playing for Manchester United, and I want to play in every game. When people talk about individual awards, it is good because to be recognised for what you do on the pitch and the contribution you make to the team - it is a privilege. But awards I receive are not as special as the ones I share with my team-mates. We have all worked hard this season to win trophies.
What do you think has been the big difference in making everything come together for you this season?
Every season I try to improve. I have learned a lot, but I think playing alongside great players like Giggsy, Scholesy and Wayne has made me a better player. This season I am more consistent and I understand the game a lot better, which comes with experience. I'm only 22 but I feel much more mature now.
A lot was said after the England game in the World Cup. Did that make you more focused?
Of course it helped. There were times that were difficult, but it helped me learn and it is better to learn lessons when you are young. I gained a lot from the World Cup and it made me stronger mentally when I came back. I knew it would be difficult but I said to myself ‘I am ready for this’ and I just wanted to do my best. I have really enjoyed this season.
How did you cope with the reaction from fans?
Some of it wasn’t very nice, but I never saw it as a problem. The opinion of the United fans was the most important thing to me and they have been amazing this season, not just towards me, but for the whole team. All the players have gained confidence because they know the supporters will always stick by the team. It is a special feeling to have those supporters behind you and it is why they are the best in the world.
How important have Sir Alex and Carlos been in helping you develop your game?
The boss and Carlos have been great with me. It is good to have Carlos here because he speaks my language. But Sir Alex always supports me, too. He has helped me more than I could ask him to. He is a great coach and I am at this club for him and because of him. He is a great man, and he has been good for my development.
You have a lot of freedom to express your skill on the pitch here, is Sir Alex a big part of giving you that liberty?
I always want to express myself on the pitch, Sir Alex gives me the opportunity and encouragement to do that. He says to me, ‘Cristiano, do what you do best – use your skills’. He gives me good confidence to create goals, either for myself or for the team, and that is a big part of my form this season.
The manager has been joking for the last few seasons about you needing to get more goals, and has had an ongoing bet with you. You won the bet this year, what made the difference?
This season I have tried to get into the box more, to be more direct. I have tried to have more shots on goal as well, and that is the reason why I have scored more goals. The bet is not really serious, it’s more of a joke we have, but everyone talks about it a lot.
You’ve scored 23 goals this season – an incredible record for a midfielder…
It is a good total, but I don’t play to be entered into the Guinness Book of Records! These statistics sound nice, but they are not what I focus on. You can’t admire your goalscoring figures too much before the season has finished, because there is always more you can do to help your team win more games and more trophies. I want to keep making assists and scoring goals because the most important thing is that the team wins. If I score more, great, but it’s not a problem to me if I don't.
The manager has said you were born to entertain on the football field. Do you see it that way?
I think I was born with skill and tricks. That is natural, but I have to work very hard in training every day – I always have done – to try and improve. The supporters love to see something different, and this is what I try to do. I try to be part of the great things that are done on the pitch. I love to take on defenders and go past them and I think fans like to see that as well.
What is your favourite moment of the season so far?
This season has been amazing so far and I don’t think I could pick one moment. I have many moments, and they are all special to me.
You’ve scored plenty of good goals this season, which is your favourite?
I was really pleased with the one against Fulham. I think it was a great goal, but what I liked about it is that it was important for the team because it came in the last few moments of the game and we won.
Are you still learning new tricks, and how pleasing is it when you try new ones in a game and they come off?
I have a few new tricks but I don’t know if I need to introduce them. I try new things in training, but I work on lots of things because that is the only way you can become the best, by working work hard. The most important thing is how and when you use your tricks. Knowing when to use your tricks is sometimes the best weapon.
You have already won an FA Cup winners’ medal but how special would it be to play in the first Cup final at Wembley?
I’m really looking forward to playing in this great stadium. To be in the final of the FA Cup again would be very special because the tournament has great tradition in this country.
This interview was first published in the official monthly magazine, Inside United.