Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Samuel Luckhurst

GET UPDATES FROM Samuel Luckhurst
 

Cristiano Ronaldo Will Always Be Adored More In Manchester Than Madrid

Posted: 12/02/2013 23:06

Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United supporters have been spoilt for choice for special moments in the Sir Alex Ferguson era, but for all the euphoria the doubles, the Treble, the 19th title and Eric Cantona brought, for yours truly it came not in a stadium but on the Moscow metro.

The day of the 2008 Champions League final was mostly an unmemorable one prior to kick-off. Moscow is a drab, inhospitable city and, devastatingly for a Brit abroad, there was a widespread booze ban as English fans were stereotyped as the hooligans Tuesday's Marca risibly depicted them as.

However we eventually did locate a watering hole, drank copious amounts of vodka and made our way to the Luzhniki stadium via the metro. And then the season's soundtrack began to play, hailing the finest player to wear a United shirt in my lifetime...

Viva Ronaldo
Viva Ronaldo
Running down the wing
Hear United sing
Viva Ronaldo

Although United and Chelsea received the same allocation, it didn't sound like it. The three adjacent escalators which thrust fans towards the Luzhniki were a sea of red. The Muscovites would have approved. Deliriously drunk, the Champions League final was turning out to be the best bender imaginable.

Cristiano Ronaldo would later that summer agree with Sepp Blatter's drivel about the Portuguese being a slave as he yearned for a transfer to Real Madrid. RedIssue labelled Ronaldo "a conniving little s**t" that August and some supporters booed him at the Community Shield.

United's stay of execution lasted another season before he swapped red for white in 2009 and the majority of supporters were relieved. The Real rumours had been on-off for the best part of three years and Ronaldo had hinted at a desire to move to Spain as far back as the 2006 World Cup.

There was on-pitch nonsense, as well. The muted celebration against West Brom, the self-withdrawal two months later when Sunderland visited and a few glum performances were Ronaldo's ways of clarifying he didn't want to be at United anymore. His "sad" statement and refusal to celebrate a goal for Real earlier this season was a familiar sight.

And yet he will be afforded possibly the most rapturous and revered reception a former player will have enjoyed at Old Trafford next month. Ronaldo has come to learn the grass isn't greener in Madrid and his admission he was "going home" to Manchester was a symptom of homesickness and hankering. He is adored and appreciated more in Manchester than Madrid, and he hasn't concealed his love for United.

The manner in which Ronaldo went about attempting to secure a move from United was questionable but his motives weren't. He had won everything in England and his ambition had to be quenched in another league. Had he departed in 2006 any return to M16 would have been lukewarm at best but after the malarkey at the Germany World Cup he matured into one of the ten greatest United players.

His wink in Gelsenkirchen endeared him to his club supporters, who boast a large faction unconcerned about the national team. Ronaldo was booed at every away ground he graced, much to the Red Army's amusement. It used to be "He plays on the left, he plays on the right, that boy Ronaldo makes Beckham look s***e" but post-2006 World Cup it was rejigged to "makes England look s***e".

That 2006-07 season was the first of three campaigns which cemented Ronaldo's status as the world's best player. Between 2003 and 2006, Ronaldo scored 27 goals. In his final three years he struck 93 times as United won three successive titles, the Champions League and became world champions.

Everyone buzzed off his insatiable appetite for success and showmanship and, like Roy Batty in Blade Runner, fans of any generation saw things you people wouldn't believe. The counter-attack versus Bolton, the free-kick against Portsmouth, the Exocet away at Porto, the destruction of Arsenal... And Ronaldo was, according to football lore, still four or five years away from the professional's peak.

And then there were the chants. United's songbook has suffered a malaise since Ronaldo left, which perhaps intensifies the airing of his catchy ditties. "He plays on the left..." was tweaked again this season to "makes City look s***e" after his winner against the Blues in the Bernabéu.

But Viva Ronaldo is the standout. An innovative tune with simple lyrics and a special endurance, it is synonymous with one of the club's most distinguished years and one of the brightest grey days in Moscow.

 

Follow Samuel Luckhurst on Twitter: www.twitter.com/samuelluckhurst

FOLLOW UK SPORT