Gary Neville says the combination of Cristiano Ronaldo's talent and attitude is the unique combination that has allowed him to become one of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo has returned to Manchester United in red hot goalscoring form, having found the back of the net four times in four appearances this season. At 36-years-old, uncertain fans are forgiven for assuming that Ronaldo's powers would have weaned, but he has revolutionised his game to become the most threatening poacher in Europe.

The Portuguese international's first goal for United in his sensational second debut against Newcastle United demonstrated to the Old Trafford faithful what forward they could expect for the remainder of his contract. After a sloppy error from the Newcastle keeper, Ronaldo was Johnny-on-the-spot to convert the rebound, reacting quicker than anybody on the pitch.

He left United in 2009 as a goalscoring winger with a flair for the extraordinary, and he returns as a decisive between-the-posts striker concerned only about scoring goals. His post-match comments for that fixture were telling, admitting that he surprised himself with two goals, but his minimum expectation for any game is to score at least one.

That extraordinary attitude was singled out by Neville, who reflected on the remarkably talented youngster who joined United in 2003 who developed an unrivalled drive to improve.

"At 18, when Cristiano came over, I didn't see someone [of whom] I thought, 'This is going to be the greatest football player of all time," he told The Times.

"That emerges when you put that work ethic into people, which is what Sir Alex did and the players around Cristiano did.

"Cristiano's special because when you align out-of-this-world talent with out-of-this-world work ethic and spirit, you get exceptional results."

The 85-time England international used Ronaldo as well as David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes as daily sources of inspiration to ensure that he maximised his talents, which he admits were not extraordinary.

"Cristiano helped me on my journey. Cristiano inspired me even when he was 19, 20, 21, 22. [Paul] Scholes, Giggs and Beckham inspired me every single day," he reflected.

"They were great talents but with an unbelievable work ethic, so where does it leave someone with Gary Neville's [lesser] talent?

"I had to try to go with them and fight as hard as I could."