Cristiano Ronaldo felt "happy and sad at the same time" after scoring Manchester United FC's winner against his old side Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lisbon.
The 22-year-old's diving header proved to be the only goal of the game, but he kept his celebrations to a minimum, earning a respectful round of applause from the home fans. "To be honest it was a strange feeling that has no explanation," he said. "As you could all see I didn't celebrate. I made a bow and I want to praise the way that the Sporting fans reacted. It made me feel very proud. I was happy and sad at the same time as I played here for so many years."
Ronaldo scored three goals in 25 league games for Sporting before making an €18m move to Old Trafford in 2003, and the atmosphere at the Estádio José Alvalade remains special to him. "This club has a different character to other clubs," he said. It also proved a fitting venue for the forward to score his first goal of the campaign having hit the target 23 times for United in all competitions last season. "Of course, I had hoped to score," he admitted.
Van der Sar moved
Sporting had given United a tough test in their opening Group F fixture with 36-year-old goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar being forced to make a number of crucial saves - notably from Liedson in the first-half and Tonel late in the second - to keep them at bay, but even the veteran Dutchman was moved by the crowd's response to their former idol. "I think it showed all the respect he has from the supporters when he scored," said Van der Sar. "That's the first time I ever saw a home crowd applaud a goal scored by the away team."
Aside from the emotions of his footballing homecoming, Ronaldo expressed relief that United had made a winning start, particularly given their changeable away form in the competition last season. "In the first half, it was very difficult to get our game going," he admitted. "Then in the second half the game opened up and we had some good opportunities. Sporting also had some chances, of course - they are pretty strong at home." He remains convinced that Sporting still have the wherewithal to reach the knockout stage, adding: "A team that is this strong at home will always have a chance."
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