Sir Alex Ferguson has described Cristiano Ronaldo’s “fantastic” return to Manchester United as like “Caesar entering Rome after victory”.
United pulled off arguably the biggest deal of the summer transfer window by re-signing Ronaldo from Juventus for £20 million ($27m) on deadline day, 12 years on from his initial departure to Real Madrid.
The 36-year-old reacquainted himself with supporters in spectacular fashion, scoring twice in a 4-1 win against Newcastle on his second debut for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, and Ferguson was present in the Old Trafford crowd to witness his homecoming.
The former United boss, who led the team to 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns between 1986 and 2013, described the atmosphere in the stadium before telling the club’s official podcast the steps Ronaldo took to reach the top during his first stint in Manchester.
“It’s fantastic,” said Ferguson. “You saw on that Saturday that it was like Caesar entering Rome after victory. I came, I saw, I conquered. It was fantastic
” I mean, for anyone who is a United fan, we could have had a million people in there, without doubt, as there were so many outside, hundreds outside. It’s one of these things. When he was here as a kid, his learning process was very, very quick.
“A lot of people said he was a diver and there was a little spell of that but, after that, he was attacking defenders and all he needed was a nudge and he would waltz by them. He would attack with unbelievable speed. I think the increasing knowledge of his game – I think he was born with a desire.
“He sacrificed himself to be the best. I remember we were playing Arsenal on the Saturday and it was pouring with rain at Carrington. I said to him, and you know he would always practice after training, and I said, ‘In. We’ve got a game tomorrow and it’s too wet. The ground is too soft.’
“So I went into my office, looked out of the window and what did he do? He went on the astroturf. I had no argument! I couldn’t say anything to him. He’s beat me.”
Ferguson went on to explain Ronaldo’s decision to leave United for Real Madrid in 2009 and insisted that he wasn’t surprised by the Portugal captain’s success at Santiago Bernabeu where he spent nine years before joining Juve.
“He had a dream of going to Real Madrid,” the legendary Scottish head coach added.
“I was not against that, six years was great for a boy from Madeira, getting him here just after his 18th birthday and having him six years. I think we did well that way and it gave me a chance to get a replacement. We got Antonio Valencia and he was fantastic so we were very lucky that way.
“I knew [how good he would become]. Absolutely. I knew that. When he got to that kind of platform at Real Madrid. To be fair to Real, they are one club that has produced world-class players for years and years and won the European cup so many times, 13 or something. You’ve got to give them credit – it is a platform where any great player would love to go to.”
Ronaldo has taken his tally to four goals in four appearances since his stunning debut against Newcastle but drew a blank in United’s home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will be hoping he and his teammates can bounce back when they host Villarreal in their next Champions League fixture on Tuesday.