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Cristiano Ronaldo is hoping for a warm reception when he steps out at the Estádio José Alvalade in the red of Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo joined United for €17.5m in August 2003 after coming up through the Sporting youth system and is looking forward to playing against the team where he made his name. "It's always good to come back to my second home," he said. "I have lots of friends and colleagues here. I like Sporting a lot but my primary colour now is red. To be honest I think the people like me here and the reception will be different than the last season in Estádio da Luz [when United played SL Benfica]. They are different people. I was booed but that's in the past. I think the reception will be good here."
Ronaldo admits it will be an emotional return, but he is focused on one thing alone; going one better than last season when United reached the semi-finals. "I will have to wait until tomorrow to see what my feelings are but I have been expecting to play against Sporting, a club where I spent so much time, for a while now. I expect a normal match, very emotional, but I believe we can win it because we're better than Sporting in every respect."
The 22-year-old has fond memories of this fixture. The two teams met in a friendly here four years ago and the home side ran out 3-1 winners – with Ronaldo impressing in the green and white of Sporting. "I have watched that match many times," he said. "It was a great game for me. I felt extra motivation back then because it was the very first match in the new Estádio José Alvalade and I was facing the team I always dreamed of playing for."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would make that dream a reality soon after and his decision to sign the winger has been vindicated many times over. Ronaldo has gone on to score 50 goals in 194 appearances for United, his dazzling performances last season helping the club to their first Premier League title since 2003. "I think it's difficult for an 18-year-old boy to settle at a new club in a new country as well as Cristiano did," Sir Alex said. "Young boys have to grow to develop and it is the speed of his development was surprising. He is a more mature player now."
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