The last time Cristiano Ronaldo played at Old Trafford, Manchester United abandoned tradition.
In every home game, certainly in the last decade, United and opposition players have walked out of the tunnel in the corner of the Stretford End to the sound of music, usually 'This Is The One' by The Stone Roses. The handshake formalities follow, as does the Champions League theme on those European nights. Then, stadium announcer Alan Keegan reads out the line-ups, always "starting with the visitors".
Not so in March 2013. As the first 22 began to get into position, United's team was read out first, in the usual numerical order. Real Madrid's followed, starting from goalkeeper Diego Lopez and number two, Raphael Varane, until it jumped from "six, Sami Khedira" straight to "10, Mesut Ozil".
The players and officials were impatiently dithering around the centre-circle by the time the missing name was announced to the crowd. Number seven, Cristiano Ronaldo, was met with thunderous cheers.
He raised his hands to the four corners of the ground he graced for six years, where his name was held in the highest esteem even after he got the move to Madrid he spent the best part of 12 months agitating for. He made a very similar gesture 69 minutes later after scoring the winning goal that would send United out of the Champions League in Alex Ferguson's last season in charge. It was a fairly unremarkable tap-in by Ronaldo's standards; indeed, the game is mostly remembered by United fans for the contentious Nani red card and the admission from then-Madrid coach Jose Mourinho that the best team lost. But the refusal to celebrate, that peculiar yardstick by which so many supporters measure the decency of their former players, was not forgotten.
On Tuesday, five and a half years later, Ronaldo will be back again. Now 33, with five Ballons d'Or and Champions League trophies to his name, he will be wearing the number seven shirt of Juventus, for whom he has scored five goals in 10 appearances. The latest, another tap-in against Genoa on Saturday, made him the first player to reach 400 goals in Europe's top-five leagues. Neither his astonishing powers on the pitch nor his remarkable drive to be the best have waned to any real degree. "Every game teaches something," he wrote on Instagram after Juve allowed Genoa an equaliser and failed to win for the first time since they signed him.
Ronaldo's laser focus on scoring goals – something he did 118 times in a United shirt – has been as intense as ever, even in the midst of a very serious legal matter. He is facing an allegation of rape, dating back to 2009, which he strongly denies. He has carried on in his work, which he is fully entitled to do, and performed with increasing assuredness in a Juve side who are looking ever more in tune with his attacking instincts.
2 - Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in both of his previous Champions League appearances against Manchester United (Feb 2013 & Mar 2013), but attempted 21 shots to score two goals. Return. #UCLDraw pic.twitter.com/0Xtb6987WC— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 30 August 2018
What remains to be seen is whether his welcome at Old Trafford will be any different this time. The disconcerting tribalism of some football fans can come to light when their favourite players are involved in any sort of alleged wrongdoing, as though club loyalties somehow have a bearing on the truth. Plus, whatever their opinion, the perception of safety in numbers inside a stadium often gives these individuals a voice, much like the semi-anonymity of social media. Ronaldo is unlikely to receive a cold reception from a crowd that once worshipped his every step, but the concern is whether the vocal backing from his most ardent fans strays into unpleasant territory. Presumption of innocence should not be forgotten, but neither should the fact that real people are at the heart of the matter.
He certainly boasts a club legacy worthy of applause. He won eight trophies there, including three Premier Leagues and the Champions League, and the first of his Ballons d'Or. As former assistant manager Mike Phelan told The Guardian: "He took the players, staff, the football club into a new dimension... he was inspirational." Things will be unsettling, though, for fans of Ronaldo, his clubs and football in general, even those distracted by a United versus Juventus game, while those legal proceedings continue.
Whether United's pre-game rituals are again restructured around their old hero remains to be seen. But Ronaldo has his own tradition at Old Trafford: scoring goals. That, at least, is something most fans expect to see again.
25 de abril 2019
|Muller urges Bayern to ´seal the deal´|
|Mourinho killed everyone at Real Madrid, even Ronaldo - Adebayor|
|Hamilton understands Leclerc´s difficult Ferrari role|
|Sarri fined £8,000 after admitting misconduct charge|
|Mbabu to join Wolfsburg on four-year deal|
|Nadal overcomes Ferrer and rain in Spain|
|AC Milan defender Calabria suffers compound leg fracture|
|Vettel defiant over F1 world title hopes|
|Former England boss Eriksson ´honoured´ by Scotland links|
|England World Cup hopeful Billings suffers injury blow|
|Klopp jealous of Salah meeting Game of Thrones star ´Mrs. Targaryen´|
|England´s Watson back in Bath XV after 13 months out|
|Farah rejects Gebrselassie claims as feud continues|
|There can only be one! - Klopp says City and Liverpool both deserve title|
|Osaka avenges Hsieh defeat to stay number one|
|Croft field goal sees Storm edge out Warriors|
|You´re never favourites against Barcelona, says Liverpool boss Klopp|
|Manchester United´s Lukaku reveals Serie A ´dream´|
|Steyn World Cup fright for Proteas|
|His season is a masterpiece – Guardiola lauds Bernardo Silva as one of Europe´s best|
|Curry: Warriors must erase memories of Game 5 loss to Williams-inspired Clippers|
|Gattuso accepts AC Milan ´embarrassed´ by Lazio|
|This game sucked – Thompson laments loss as Warriors miss chance to advance|
|It´s ´vital´ Tottenham keep Eriksen – Rose|
|Roosters regain ANZAC Day Cup|
|Golovkin announces coach split|
|PFA Premier League Team of the Year: Is Pogba worthy of a place?|
|Pogba the surprise inclusion in Man City, Liverpool-dominated PFA Team of the Year|
|Brisbane Roar 3 Adelaide United 5: Reds secure home final as Fowler watches on|
|Mariners introduced to Padres´ Paddack in loss|
|Rockets close out Jazz, Clippers hold off Warriors|
|MLS Review: Rooney leads DC United, Galaxy held|
|Rockets´ Capela explains why he wants to face Warriors|
|LeBron disputes reported rift with Lakers front office|
|Copa Libertadores Review: River Plate advance, Boca Juniors held|
|Kovac unsure about contentious penalty decision|
|Kerr calls Lillard´s game-winner against Thunder a ´good shot´|
|Griezmann important for future at Atletico – Simeone|
|Russell ´definitely´ wants to stay with Nets|
|Fernandinho to have scan on knee injury|
|Top prospect Guerrero called up by Blue Jays|
|Solskjaer agrees with Keane that United need ´right characters´|
|Emery not blaming Leno for Wolves loss|
|Guardiola ´likes to be critical´ of Man City derby hero Sane|
|Kruse bemoans ´ridiculous´ penalty in DFB-Pokal semi-final|
|Lazio condemn ´simplistic´ reporting of alleged racist incidents|
|Solskjaer: United not good enough to match City|
|Keane takes aim at Fred for ´cheating´ in Man United´s derby defeat|
|Kompany: Still all to play for in Premier League title race|
24 de abril 2019
|Rashford: We did not play like Manchester United|
|Arsenal can still secure top-four spot - Emery|
|Guardiola and Man City break records in derby win at Old Trafford|
|Kvitova eases through in Stuttgart, Istanbul seeds tumble|
|Manchester United 0 Manchester City 2: Silva & Sane send visitors back to summit|
|AC Milan 0 Lazio 1 (agg 0-1): Correa winner earns Inzaghi´s men revenge|
|Werder Bremen 2 Bayern Munich 3: Lewandowski double sends Kovac´s men into final|
|Wolves 3 Arsenal 1: Stunning first-half display hurts Gunners´ top-four hopes|
|Ferrer to face Nadal in Barcelona as Fognini withdraws|
|United States earn ODI status for first time|
|Bordalas wary of ´awesome´ Benzema|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Valencia 2: Late Correa stunner seals win as Barca´s title party is delayed|
|Keane on Pogba: I wouldn´t believe a word he says|
|De Villiers, Stoinis inspire in-form RCB to another win|
|Gayle & Russell headline Windies World Cup squad|
|Former Barcelona chief Rosell acquitted of money laundering|
|United v City: Darmian and Pereira in as Solskjaer wields axe|
|Mourinho: Some players might think I´m a b******|
|Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe? Who is Europe´s most prolific young goalscorer?|
|Steelers sign Roethlisberger to two-year contract extension|
|Frank Lampard charged with misconduct by FA|