Anthony Elanga hails ‘special’ Cristiano Ronaldo and reveals the advice the Manchester United star gives players before games… plus his instructions on celebrating during his latest hat-trick
Cristiano Ronaldo is an inspiration to Manchester United’s attackers and spends the build-up to matches telling the likes of Jadon Sancho how to have maximum impact on games, Anthony Elanga has revealed.
Sweden winger Elanga has occasionally partnered Ronaldo during his first season in senior football, helping the Portugal captain score a decisive hat-trick in the 3-2 win over Norwich on April 16 – United’s only win in their last seven games.
Despite being United’s top scorer with 23 goals in 37 appearances this season, Ronaldo and the club have been criticised for the transfer since his surprise return to the underperforming Premier League giants on the final day of the 2021 summer transfer window.
Anthony Elanga (right) set up the first goal of Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick at home to Norwich
The United academy product says Ronaldo gives guidance to players before and during games
Elanga is unequivocal about Ronaldo’s positive influence, telling the club’s official website: ‘You can see his record and the amount of goals he’s scored.
‘He know what it takes to get to the top so it’s more than right to just speak to someone like that. And yeah, we have a chat the day before or even during a game. You might see us in the warm-up.
‘He’ll speak to me and Sancho together about what we can do in the game, to affect the games – and it’s important to have someone like that in the team.
‘He is someone I look up to and speak to and ask for advice and stuff. He is a special player to work with.’
Elanga’s breakthrough campaign has coincided with Ronaldo’s return to United from Juventus
United’s squad have faced accusations of a lack of character and a poor dressing room atmosphere during a dismal season by the standards of the 13-time Premier League champions.
Club legend Paul Scholes claimed last week that midfielder Jesse Lingard had told him the dressing room was ‘a disaster’ at a side battling for Europa League qualification while languishing 28 points behind league leaders Manchester City.
Outgoing interim boss Ralf Rangnick has said the club needs ‘open-heart surgery’, and his successor, Erik ten Hag, faces the challenge of bringing the best out of an underachieving group when he arrives at Old Trafford in July.
While Ronaldo has been reliably prolific, England livewire Sancho has scored only five goals in 38 games since joining from Borussia Dortmund for £73million at the start of the season, although Elanga’s emergence has been a rare bright spot for the Premier League also-rans.
Ronaldo advises Elanga and other players, such as Jadon Sancho, during United’s warm-ups
The 20-year-old set up Ronaldo’s seventh-minute opener in the nervy victory over the relegation-threatened Canaries at Old Trafford, joining the five-time Ballon d’Or winner for his trademark SIUUU celebration in front of fans.
Academy product Elanga said: ‘That was an exciting time – the double SIUUU. I didn’t expect it.
‘He said: “Let’s do it”. I said, “fair enough” – but if you see in the video, I didn’t really get into the air properly. But I managed to do it anyway and it was a special moment.
‘We spoke about it the day before, actually – how we were going to work, in terms of pressing.
‘[We said that] if you get an opportunity, look up. If he gets an opportunity, to look up for me, as I’ll be in the box or he will be in the box.’
Sixth-placed United can move level on points with the team immediately above them in the Premier League table, Tottenham, when Brentford provide the final visitors of the season to Old Trafford on Monday night.