It was in the summer of 2009 that Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro moved from the Theatre of Dreams called Old Trafford to the European powerhouses Real Madrid for a then world-record transfer fee of 84 million Euros.
Since then, he has become a modern-day great, transcending boundaries set by other players and scoring goals by the numbers just for fun. He left the Santiago Bernabeu for the Allianz Stadium in Turin as he became a Juventus player this summer for a transfer fee of 105 million Euros.
Today he returns to his former home, Old Trafford when Juventus take on Manchester United in a UEFA Champions League group H match. It was at Old Trafford that Ronaldo went from being boy to man, challenger to achiever, work-in-progress to finished product and eminent to great. This journey of his was charted along with mentor and coach Sir Alex Ferguson who gave him the opportunity to flourish at Manchester United.
Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford with Real Madrid in 2013, coached by Mourinho, and scored a goal to dash Sir Alex's and United's Champions League dreams in what would turn out to be the latter's last season in charge. He broke a lot of hearts at Old Trafford that balmy March evening and United will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that when Juventus visit today.
The Ronaldo of today has an enviable support line with Paulo Dybala to back him and Miralem Pjanic to give the key passes. Holding them tight in defence are Italian maestros Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini. However, surely Ronaldo and Juventus will miss Mario Mandzukic, who had a last-minute ankle injury and won't play against United.
However, if Ronaldo tries too hard to impress Old Trafford, he is bound to fail. The Manchester United side that he will take on is considerably weakened to the one he faced in 2013. There are holes in the defence and there is no proper number nine to take the reins. Having said that, Ronaldo and his Juve teammates will also be aware that United, backed with a delirious Stretford End, can destroy any team on its day.
So, as Cristiano Ronaldo walks out at Old Trafford today, his heart will be beating a lot more than it usually does. It remains to be seen if he channels his inner schoolboy and script a win against the same club which taught him how to breathe.