It may not have been completely amicable, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s first Manchester United exit was significantly more cordial than his second.
While his most recent stint ended with THAT Piers Morgan interview, Ronaldo’s first Old Trafford exit was sealed through a ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ with Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary Scottish boss had to be at his persuasive best in 2008 to convince the flying winger that his dream move to Real Madrid could wait 12 months.
In his book, Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography, he wrote: “I went to Carlos’s [Queiroz, formerly assistant coach to Ferguson and then-Portugal manager] house in Portugal to find the boy expressing an urge to go to Real Madrid, and told him: ‘You can’t go this year, not after the way Calderon has approached the issue’.
“I said, ‘I know you want to go to Real Madrid. But I’d rather shoot you than sell you to that guy now. If you perform, don’t mess us about, and someone comes and offers a world record fee, then we will let you go.’
“I did well to calm him down. I told him that the reason I was refusing to sell him that year was because of Calderon.”
Ferguson stuck to his word. A year after that intervention in Portugal, Ronaldo sealed his £80million move to Real Madrid, which ensured his bond with Ferguson – his father figure and mentor – endured.
“For me, Sir Alex Ferguson is like a father in football for me,” he said when re-signing for the club in 2021. “He helped me a lot, he taught me many things, and in my opinion of course he had a big role because the relationship that we had, we keep in touch all the time, and he’s an unbelievable person.”
That relationship ensured that when Ronaldo came up against United for his new side, there was no bad blood – unlike his current situation. His first reunion with Sir Alex and Co. came 10 years ago this month when Real Madrid were drawn against the Red Devils in the Champions League last 16.
United had topped their group, only to be given the toughest draw possible against the Spanish giants. The first leg took place in Madrid, with United hoping they would do enough to be in the driving seat for the return clash.
It started well for Ferguson’s side as well, with Danny Welbeck putting the visitors ahead after 20 minutes of play. But in a flash, Ronaldo reminded everyone why Los Blancos moved heaven and earth to sign him four years earlier.
Angel Di Maria, who would eventually sign for United, whipped a cross into the box where Ronaldo leaped above Patrice Evra to arrow a header past David de Gea into the bottom corner.