The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 13 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is famous across the world for a host of reasons — most expensive footballer in history, sexiest sportsman alive, second best footballer in the world, Bipasha Basu’s one-evening squeeze…

His day job? Playing football at Real Madrid.

His evening job on February 13? Taking on Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

What’s the big deal?

This is the first time that Ronaldo will be returning to Old Trafford to try and beat his buddies and ‘stepover’ his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson.

He first came into the United fold as an 18-year-old when he was signed from Sporting Clube de Portugal in 2003, after leaving the Reds defenders red-faced with his speed and skill in a pre-season friendly.

After six dramatic seasons at Old Trafford, under Sir Alex’s tutelage, he was sold to Real Madrid in 2009 for a mere 80 million pounds, making him the most expensive footballer ever.

Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford in prime form and riding 182 goals in 179 appearances for Real.

What does it mean for a united fan?

Frankly speaking, I wasn’t very happy when my idol David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid by Sir Alex in the summer of 2003. And so I wasn’t really thrilled when an 18-year-old was brought in to replace him and given the iconic number 7 jersey. Initially, my reaction was that he was a one-trick wonder, but my faith in Sir Alex said that he would do what was best for the club.

For me, the club always comes first, and then come the players who represent it. CR7 (jersey number, silly!) may have become a legend at United, proving me wrong, but he wears the red jersey with the United badge no more. Ronaldo’s name may still be sung in the terraces of Old Trafford, but for me he will be an enemy on the night of February 13. I may have cheered every single one of the 118 goals Ronaldo scored wearing red, but he dare not score against us!

A Beckham and a Ronaldo will come and go, what will remain is Manchester United Football Club. For me, it’s Manchester United versus Real Madrid and not Ronaldo versus United.

What does it mean for a ronaldo fan? For many, supporting Ronaldo means more than supporting a football club, the footballer means more than the jersey he is wearing. These, sadly, include a few friends of mine. Most of them are United fans and do not want their team to lose, but somewhere inside they want Ronaldo to succeed as well. Yes, they would not be unhappy if Ronaldo scores against United. And they would be waiting to see if he celebrates once he scores. [He won’t. Score, that is!]

How can united stop Ronaldo?

Sir Alex has never been a fan of man-marking a particular player, but he might just have to deploy a man — or two — to stop his former talisman. The toughest task on the Trafford turf may well fall to Phil Jones and Rafael Da Silva (in great form).

If there are two centre backs who know every twist in the CR7 book of trickery, it’s Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. So, the big boys need to have a big night. “See u soon bro!!” Rio Ferdinand had tweeted when the Champions League draw was announced. On 13th night it should be translated into Bengali on the pitch: “Tokey ebaar dekhe nebo, bhai!”

Whatever the specific manpower, the broader plan for United will surely be to set up a five-man midfield, including a withdrawn Wayne Rooney, to negate Ronaldo’s pace and limit opportunities for counter-attacks that remain the essential weapon of any Mourinho side.


Ronaldo shoots

# On the day of the draw I was out training and I had this strong feeling that we were going to get Manchester United.

# It is only a game, just a football match against my old club. I’m not going to war, I’m going home — and I am really looking forward to it.

# In my opinion Real Madrid have a better team, but we have to show that on the pitch because United are a very united team and always have been in recent years.

# It is thanks to Manchester United that I play for Real Madrid. 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.

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