Ferguson relishing return of Ronaldo and Real
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson on Friday said he was sure that Cristiano Ronaldo will receive an impressive reception when he returns to Old Trafford for the first time with Real Madrid.
United were on Thursday drawn to play the Spanish champions in one of the ties of the last 16 of the Champions League, with the match given added interest because of Ronaldo’s status as a former club favourite.
The 27-year-old Portugal captain left United for the Santiago Bernabeu in an £80 million ($130 million, 98 million euro) deal in 2009 after a successful six-year spell that saw United win three Premier League titles and the Champions League.
Ferguson revealed that Ronaldo wanted to leave in 2008 but was persuaded to stay on for another 12 months and he believes his contribution will be recognised by the club’s supporters, who still sing the forward’s name.
“The contract with Real says that he can’t play against us. I think it will be a disgrace if he plays against us anyway. He has no loyalty to us,” Ferguson joked at a news conference before United’s match against Swansea on Sunday.
“One thing is for sure, he’ll get a great reception when he comes to Old Trafford and quite rightly when he comes on the pitch. After that they can boo all they like.
“You’ve got to remember he came at 17 and really developed himself here as a great footballer. We’re proud of the part we played in his career. To get six years out of a boy when he comes at 17 and played for us for six years we’ve done well.
“He always had a hankering to go to Madrid in his career and we helped him on that way. It wasn’t disloyalty because I got another year out of him when he wanted to go the previous year and he honoured that and was fantastic for us.
“He went with our blessing. My way of looking at it is that we were lucky to have him for six years and the United fans would share that.”
Ronaldo for his part said he still talked to Ferguson and missed him, the club and the northwest English city, describing it as “like a family”.
“I had six great years there and am still friends with my team-mates,” he was quoted as saying by Spanish sports daily As. “It is thanks to Manchester United that I am here playing for Real Madrid. Without them, I wouldn’t be the player I am today.
“I won’t celebrate if I score against United.”
After missing out on the knock-out phase of the Champions League last season, Ferguson believes the tie is an opportunity for United, who have won the European Cup three times, to re-establish themselves as a European force.
“I’ve not got a great record against (Real coach) Jose (Mourinho) and I need to put that right,” he added.
“The main focus will centre around Cristiano, it will be a fantastic tie and hopefully we can get them back here with a good chance and the place will be buzzing.
“We’ve not had a really good European game for quite a while having not qualified last year. This is a big opportunity for United to kick on and step forward in European football again.”
Ferguson meanwhile dismissed reports that Paul Scholes has decided to retire at the end of the season. Scholes, 38, called time on his career in 2011, only to return to action in January.
There has also been speculation about the futures of Ryan Giggs, 39, and Rio Ferdinand, 34, but Ferguson said he had heard nothing from Scholes and predicted that Giggs will play for up to two years more while Ferdinand’s form was “terrific”.
“It’s the kind of speculation you expect because we only put older players on one-year contracts,” he added.
Northern Ireland international defender Jonny Evans, 24, has signed a new contract to keep him at the club until 2016.