How Sir Alex Ferguson tugged on Cristiano Ronaldo's heart strings to entice him home to Manchester United - Premier League - Football - The Independent

How Sir Alex Ferguson tugged on Cristiano Ronaldo's heart strings to entice him home to Manchester United

Former manager designed a fanfare fit for a legend in effort to lure back Madrid star

So overwhelming was the  drama of Wayne Rooney’s omission from the Manchester United side to face Real Madrid on 5 March that the really significant piece of pre-match choreography went almost entirely undetected.

The names of the Madrid XI were read out second by stadium announcer Alan Keegan that night – an unprecedented act on a place where they wring every piece of theatre out of United – and of their number it was Cristiano Ronaldo, “the magnificent No 7” as Keegan described him, who was named last of all.

This was all the design of Sir Alex Ferguson, whose instructions on how Ronaldo’s return were to be handled were spelled out in the days leading up to the Champions League knock-out tie. The only uncertainty is what Ferguson was playing at. Trying to unsettle his one-time prodigy with the big introduction, perhaps? That worked fairly well as a strategy given the job Rafael da Silva did marking him. Or trying to remind him how it would be if he ever came home to Manchester?

No one is making confident predictions that the 28-year-old will be returning to the stadium he last left as a United player in May 2009, when with the Premier League title retained he drove his soft-top Bentley into the early evening sunshine.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” says one source, citing the numerous obstacles. But the fact that United are harbouring any hope indicates the scale of their ambition in a summer when an investment of perhaps £80m would carry the signal that the Glazers are driving on under a brilliant new manager, rather than the coach who came cheapest.

It isn’t the kind of luxury afforded to the former chief executive David Gill. “The economics of the madhouse” is how he described the £80m sale of Ronaldo to the Bernabeu in 2009 – a deal in which United demanded and got the money in one lump sum. It is also actually unclear how much Moyes, very much his own man, would welcome such a player being bestowed upon him. But it is hard to avoid the sense that a new era at Old Trafford will be accompanied by a very substantial signature purchase this summer.

Cesc Fabregas could also be that man. He is the type of player whom United need more than Ronaldo. The Premier League champions would be ruled by their heads, more than their hearts, in settling upon him. For a club with £80m to spend, Gareth Bale ought to be that man, though the mechanics of doing business with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is a major impediment to that notion. United know that Levy’s determination to drive a deal into the last days of a transfer window, to exact the last modicum of financial advantage, could leave them pursuing Bale all summer, only to be left with a day or two to seek an alternative if such a deal falls down.

In the background there is also the task of ensuring that Wayne Rooney stays. If words could be taken at face value in football then we could say with confidence that the relationship between Rooney and David Moyes is restored, though no one really knows how the phone call the striker put in to the then-Everton manager a few years ago, apologising for libelling him in his autobiography, really played out.

The reasons why Rooney should stay are so overwhelmingly strong that they hardly seem to require rehearsing. By staying at Old Trafford he can become an all-time legend and the club’s top goalscorer. He is currently only 52 behind Sir Bobby Charlton. Going elsewhere may be more lucrative for him and will certainly be so for his representatives but he is unlikely to establish the same status in another place. There is not an abundance of senior players left with whom Rooney gets on to make the arguments to stay. Ryan Giggs is more likely to influence him than Rio Ferdinand. But they have a significant job to do.

United will also do what United do, looking after their own, as they try to persuade supporters that Rooney’s desire to leave was perhaps not as pronounced as Sir Alex Ferguson suggested last month.

Ronaldo would be quite a reason to stay, though. When you listen to his former United team-mates talk about how desperate he was to leave behind the Manchester rain in 2009 it is hard to countenance the idea he would want to go back. But a United optimist would say Ronaldo might have discovered the Iberian grass wasn’t greener. “It was like Robin van Persie saying how that little boy within was screaming at him,” Gary Neville said in March. “Madrid was something he had to fulfil.”

Asked last December whether the player might return, Ferguson said: “I don’t see that. It’s fanciful thinking really.” Three months later, when Ronaldo actually arrived at Old Trafford to play, Ferguson knew that his own tenure was over. It was time to create a homecoming fit for a legend and hope, in the face of insuperable odds, that might persuade him that Old Trafford would always be his home.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week