Fergie unveils the next Ronaldo
Sir Alex Ferguson unveiled Manchester United’s latest star of the future and challenged Zoran Tosic to hit the same dizzy heights as world footballer of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was only 17 when he came to England from Sporting Lisbon. United are hoping to nurture 21-year-old Tosic in the same way, following his estimated £10million move from Partizan Belgrade.
It is asking a lot of Tosic to have quite the same impact. But Ferguson’s commitment to the excellence of youth ensures the young Serbian winger will be given every opportunity to fulfil his enormous potential.
"We would like everyone to turn out like Cristiano," said Ferguson.
"There is a difference - because Ronaldo had this fantastic dribbling ability, whereas Zoran is more straightforward.
"But the point is we are planning for the future - and the challenge any young player should set himself, no matter which club he is with, is to get to the very top. We are all proud of Cristiano achieving the status he has. But it is a two-way street.
"The player must have the personal ambition, the desire and drive to succeed. But he also owes a lot to Manchester United for nurturing and encouraging him in the proper way at the right times."
Ronaldo has won so many prestigious individual honours over the past few months there is no dispute over his status as the world’s number one.
With that lofty position comes constant rumour and speculation, something United have become wearily used to dealing with now.
In Japan last month, Ferguson famously responded to talk a private deal had been agreed for Ronaldo’s exit to Real Madrid by stating: "I would not sell them a virus."
The player himself followed up by branding those behind such stories as "liars".
This has not prevented the rumours resurfacing once more. Ferguson is so unmoved he barely felt it was worth a cursory response.
"We expected January to be like this," he said. "We are not fazed by it now; we just have to accept it happens."
Of more interest is Tosic’s development.
The United boss is convinced his slight frame can develop enough strength to cope with the rigours of domestic combat.
Although the Scot estimates it will be the end of February before Tosic is ready to play a competitive game, the chances are he will do so before the present campaign reaches its conclusion.
"It is possible he could play," said Ferguson. "The physical part is pertinent, because the Premier League is competitive and tough. There is no getting round that fact. But given normal progress, he could be involved. It is a great option for us to have someone with a natural left foot in our team."
Ferguson likens Tosic to Nani of his current squad, with set-piece delivery akin to David Beckham, which could make him a very useful asset.
The player himself has been put into the care of ‘godfather’ Nemanja Vidic, who has helped his compatriot get used to life in the north-west.
"This is the most important day of my life," said Tosic. "Of course it is a lot easier having Nemanja here.
"He has been helping me tremendously on the field and off it as well. It is a completely different scenario to the one he faced, because he was completely on his own."
Tosic has kept a close eye on United’s fortunes for years.
However, it is only relatively recently the idea of playing at Old Trafford came into his mind. Now it is agonisingly close, he cannot wait for that day to come.
"At the beginning I never thought me being anything to do with Manchester United was an option," he said.
"Then later on I was thinking maybe it could be a possibility.
"We all know what sort of team they are and what kind of players we are talking about. Now it is up to me to train and improve enough to get in the team as quickly as possible."