Alex Ferguson admitted his «Christmas wish» was to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to Old Trafford. He recently joked: «A Christmas wish.. We have them every year.»
But Ronaldo won’t return to Manchester United as an addition to his own attacking «Galacticos» but as Real Madrid’s biggest threat to the Scot’s hopes of claiming the trophy for the third time.
Now he will have to settle for the challenging alternative of finding a way of stopping the brilliant Portuguese, who illuminated Old Trafford in a six-year spell which brought 118 goals in 292 appearances.
The latest meeting of United and Real was the stand-out tie from the draw for the knockout phase for the Champions League in Nyon, a tie nourished by glamour, history and a real hint of danger for managers Ferguson and his old adversary Jose Mourinho.
It will not simply be the latest instalment of Ferguson v Mourinho — it will be Ronaldo against Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie and two stellar attacking forces against two defences that have proved vulnerable.