at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Sir Alex Ferguson suggested on Friday that Cristiano Ronaldo becoming a Manchester United player again might not be out of the question, ahead of the star’s eagerly anticipated return to Old Trafford with Real Madrid in February.
Only last month, Ferguson described the player he sold to Real Madrid for a world-record £80million in 2009 as “unbuyable”.
The United manager is not about to read too much into speculation in Spain that Ronaldo feels unappreciated over the lack of progress in contract negotiations. Even though his deal still has three years to run, the Portugal star is understood to be asking for a new one worth up to £25m a year.
But if Ronaldo were ever to leave the Bernabeu, Ferguson hopes that he would consider a move back to United.
“You never know,” he said. “I don’t know when his contract finishes. He may want to go to another club at some point in his career and I’d hope he would want to come here. But that’s a long way off.
“I’d love to see that, but it’s fanciful thinking really. First of all, how much it would take to get him from Real Madrid and, secondly, I don’t think there’s any chance they would want to sell him.”
Ronaldo, too, has fond memories: “It is thanks to Manchester United that I play for Real Madrid,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I still speak with Sir Alex Ferguson. I miss him a lot and I miss Manchester United.
“I felt very good there, it was like a family. I had six great years there and am still friends with my team-mates.”
He will play United for the first time since 2003 as two of the world’s most glamorous clubs face each other in the first knockout round of the Champions League.
Ferguson is proud of transforming the magician from Madeira into one of the two best players on the planet; one who, in the Scot’s opinion, bears comparison with the greatest players in history.
Ferguson said: “There are different forms of courage, but the courage to take the ball all the time is the best one. He’s always had that.
“Great players have got that. Denis Law, George Best, Pele, Johan Cruyff, Eusebio: all the great players can do that. They take the ball, no matter the challenges.
“I’ve been very fortunate in having Scholes, Giggs and Cantona. He’s certainly in that bracket.”
Which begs the question, how are United going to stop him? It was after Ronaldo tormented United in a friendly nine years ago that Ferguson’s players urged him to sign the Sporting Lisbon teenager.
“I’m putting Giggs against him – he knows more about him,” said Ferguson. “Giggs would love to play against him. We’ll have a way.”
While many United fans still sing Ronaldo’s name, others have not forgotten he never hid his desire to swap Manchester for Madrid.
Ferguson persuaded him to stay for another 12 months and believes supporters should just be grateful that they saw one of the greats play at Old Trafford for six years.
“It wasn’t disloyalty because I got another year out of him when he wanted to go the previous year,” said Ferguson. “He honoured that and was fantastic for us. He went with our blessing.
“I was sorry when he left, don’t get me wrong, but he always had a hankering to go to Madrid in his career and we helped him on that way.
“My way of looking at it is we were lucky to have him for six years and the United fans would share that.
“One thing is for sure, he’ll get a great reception when he comes to Old Trafford and quite rightly so when he comes on the pitch – after that, they can boo all they like!
“It will be a fantastic tie. We’ve not had a really good European game for quite a while, having not qualified last year,” Ferguson added. ‘This is a big opportunity for United to kick on and step forward in European football again.”
Ferguson must attend to more mundane matters away to Swansea tomorrow and maintain United’s lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
“If we are top of the league on New Year’s Day, you know fine well – and everyone else knows fine well – that we’re going to be in the ballpark at the end of the season,” said Ferguson.
“We know there are going to be challenges. It could come from Chelsea, too, but City and ourselves will be battling it out.” – Daily Mail