Alex Ferguson to look into small print of Cristiano Ronaldo's contract

Manchester United manager jokes about return of winger following his side being drawn against Real Madrid

Sir Alex Ferguson is checking the small print of Cristiano Ronaldo's £80million transfer to Real Madrid to see if there is any way of stopping him playing against Manchester United.

Yesterday's Champions League draw has pitted Ronaldo against his former club.

They promise to be two memorable occasions, with Ronaldo guaranteed a warm reception when he returns to Old Trafford for the second leg on March 5 given his exploits in six seasons with the Red Devils.

Ferguson knows stopping the 27-year-old represents a formidable challenge, which is why his first thought is self preservation.

"Our contract with Real is that he can't play against us," laughed the Scot.

"I think it would be a disgrace if he played against us. It would be no loyalty."

Ferguson knows, injury permitting, Ronaldo will line up against United for the first time since he was a teenager at Sporting Lisbon in 2003.

On that night he terrorised the Red Devils so badly Ferguson's own players urged the United boss to snap the Portugal whizz-kid up, which he promptly did, for £12.24million.

Six years later, he left for Madrid, confirmed alongside Lionel Messi as one of the world's best players, with three league titles and a Champions League the legacy.

"When he comes on to the pitch at Old Trafford he will get a great reception, quite rightly, after that they can boo him as much as they like.

"You have to remember, he came here at 17 and developed himself into a great footballer.

"We are proud of the part we played in his career.

"To get six years out of a boy when he comes to us at 17, we have done very well."

The most startling thing is that Ronaldo will be celebrated despite eventually demanding to leave, the move to Madrid allowing him to fulfil a childhood ambition.

"He always had a hankering to go to Real Madrid at some point in his career and we helped him on that way," said Ferguson.

"It wasn't disloyalty. I got another year out of him when he wanted go the previous year.

"He honoured that and did fantastic for us and then went with our blessing.

"My way of looking at it was that we were lucky to have him for six years. The United fans would share that."

Yet Ronaldo is not the only side issue to a mouth-watering last-16 tie.

For Jose Mourinho, the man many regard as Ferguson's likely managerial successor, will be in the opposition dugout, just as he was in 2004 when his Porto side dumped United out of the Champions League on their way to winning the tournament.

"I don't have a great record against Jose so I will have to put that right," said Ferguson.

"But the main focus will certainly centre around Cristiano.

"It will be a fantastic tie.

"Hopefully we can get them back here with a good chance and get the players absolutely buzzing.

"We have not had a really good European game for quite a while having not qualified last year.

"This is a big opportunity for United to kick on and step forward in European football again."

PA

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