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Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Barcelona.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Barcelona.

Champions League: Cristiano Ronaldo still sees red in Manchester

The Real Madrid forward still has an affinity with Sir Alex Ferguson and the other Manchester club as he prepares to face Roberto Mancini's side.

Manchester and Madrid may be capitals of world football, but teams from either city have not met in a decade.

Advocates of a European Super League argue that giants should meet more often.

Real Madrid's visit to Manchester City tonight is their first trip to Manchester since the Brazilian Ronaldo was applauded off the Old Trafford pitch following a hat-trick against United 10 seasons ago.

A different Ronaldo is now Madrid's star for their first ever away game against City and Cristiano's presence will not go unnoticed in the stands given his status as a United legend.

Ronaldo remains in close contact with the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and has told people that he would like to play for United again in the future.

Such is his respect, he has also said that he would never join City while Ferguson is manager of United.

Ferguson always knew that the player he helped become the European player of the year in 2008 hoped to leave, but he aimed to keep him happy and at Old Trafford for as long as possible, even going as far as to instruct staff on the club's official media to compliment him as much as possible so that he felt valued.

Ronaldo should be happy at Madrid, the club he always wanted to play for, but he does not receive the same love as in Manchester.

He won the Primera Liga last season and he scores more goals season after season. He is a better player than the one who left Old Trafford for a world record £80 million (Dh468m) in 2009, the second best player in the world - in his own mind the best.

He is the only footballer on the planet who could put up a convincing claim against Lionel Messi, yet his body language betrays the image of a man at ease with himself.

The thin skinned Ronaldo is irked when he gets booed for any less than spectacular performances, agitated when he is continually overlooked for individual awards, be they voted for by fans, journalists or fellow professionals.

Part of the reason is Messi's brilliance and the greater appreciation of Barcelona's football, the other that Ronaldo's self-assured demeanour translates as arrogance.

Claims that he wanted an improvement on his multimillion euro salary was largely seen as the reason why he declared his unhappiness in September.

The Portuguese star did not add to his 17 Madrid goals so far this season on Saturday when Athletic Bilbao came for their annual trouncing at the Bernabeu, but he excelled as Madrid won their fifth successive league game.

A poor start means they are still eight points behind Barcelona and five behind their neighbours Atletico, the leading pair having both enjoyed their best ever starts.

The Madrid derby is on December 1, but first Madrid face tricky away games at City tonight and then Betis this weekend.

Against the Basques, Madrid showed that they have excellence throughout their team, with Karim Benzema again in top form and Mesut Ozil an assist king.

The German has set up 64 goals in 122 games for Madrid and has provided the defender Sergio Ramos with his last seven goals.

As befitting a club of their stature, Jose Mourinho's side have strength throughout and they will need it against a City side unbeaten at home in 19 European games.

Unbeaten maybe, but with just two points from four games City need to win if they are to have any hope of reaching the knockout stage.

Madrid have been beaten more times than they have won in England, but a draw will suffice, not that the Spaniards have ever been a side to play for a draw.

If September's first game between the two clubs is any indicator, we are set for a classic. The home side dominated in the Bernabeu but City took an improbable lead and led again at 2-1 until the 87th minute when Benzema's equaliser was following by a decisive injury time winner from Ronaldo.

He may be loved by the red side of Manchester, but a repeat of that tonight will only increase hostilities with the fans of a club he has been linked with.

 

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