at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Cristiano Ronaldo has poured praise on Sir Alex Ferguson for “teaching me the game” but warned he plans to put all gratitude on hold by helping knock Manchester United out of the Champions League.
The flamboyant Real Madrid striker, who has scored an incredible 179 goals in 178 games since he left United for the Bernabeu in 2009, knows he will be the central figure of an epic last 16 tie when he returns to Old Trafford for the first leg next Wednesday.
But the Portuguese forward expects to relish the limelight, saying: “I believe things will go well.
“In my opinion Real Madrid have a better team, although we have to show that on the pitch because United are a very united team and always have been in recent years.”
Despite that bullish forecast the 28-year-old is in no mood to upset anybody at the club where he found fame after Ferguson bought him from Sporting Club de Portugal in 2003 for about £13m as an 18-year-old.
In an interview to be published on Wednesday in Champions magazine, Ronaldo said: “I have wanted to face United for some time because I have great memories of my time there.
“Sir Alex taught me the basis of football. I arrived in Manchester when I was only 18. He managed my career in the best possible way, and for me he is one of the most important people in football.
“I still have an excellent relationship with him and it will be nice to see him again.
“It will be a match in which I will feel a lot. I was there for six years and I have a lot of friends. It will be a match with a lot of emotion.”
United full back Patrice Evra plans to play on that emotion to win his personal battle against the winger. He told the club’s official magazine Inside United: “It will be emotional for Ronny because he loves Manchester United. I hope the emotion will get to him. That will be perfect for us.
“We don’t have to wind him up before this game because when he is angry he is at his best.
“So, let’s just be nice. We can say ‘Welcome home, Ronny. It’s so nice to have you back, we love you, you are the best player!’
“We can kill him with love. We have already been texting each other. I hope he will get a great ovation because what he did for United was unbelievable. I miss him, too.”
Ronaldo, who is 28 today, won the FA Cup in 2004, League Cup in 2006 and European Cup in 2008 with United, scoring in each of the finals. He also helped the Old Trafford club to the Premier League title in each of his last three seasons with them, finishing as the competition’s top scorer with 31 goals in 2007-08.
However, he was also part of the team who lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona before he moved to his beloved Real Madrid at the end of the season.
He won’t get involved in comparing Ferguson to his current club boss Jose Mourinho.
He told his own website: “It would be like comparing a Ferrari and a Porsche.”
But he does believe he’s become a better player. He said: “With experience you do things for the team – that is what I strive for every year, to be more productive for the team.
“What I have tried to do at all the teams I have played for is leave my mark, make my contribution, so that the club can win titles.” – Daily Mail