Cristiano Ronaldo graceful in controversial Real Madrid triumph over Manchester United
Manchester United fans, players and manager Alex Ferguson will no doubt be fuming for a few more days about the controversial nature of their Champions League defeat by Real Madrid before the club’s attention turns to Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
But even the referee’s decision to send off Nani when a booking seemed sufficient could not overshadow the graceful manner in which Cristiano Ronaldo handled the occasion of knocking out his former club at a ground where he is apparently still adored.
“Viva Ronaldo,” United supporters sang before, during and after the 1-1 first leg in Madrid and the ode to the Portuguese forward also reverberated around Old Trafford during Real’s 2-1 win as he barely held back the tears after delivering the killer blow that saw his present club advance into the last eight 3-2 on aggregate.
Ronaldo refrained from celebrating either his headed equaliser at the Bernabeu or the deft finish which swung the tie Real’s way in the return leg and there was nothing pathetic or patronising in the gesture of a player often slated for theatrics while he played in the Premier League.
His salute to United players and fans after the absorbing tie reflected genuine respect for a place where he became one of the world’s top players and complemented the occasion of Ryan Giggs making his milestone 1,000th appearance for United.
Having acknowledged his first priority in an emotional contest was to help Real advance, Ronaldo laid out just how mixed his emotions were after getting the job done in the most clinical fashion.
“The feelings for people who treat you well are unique and it was a special day for me to return to my second home and spend time with my friends,” he said.
“The most important thing was that Real Madrid won and inside I am very happy but also sad for United.”
It may be scant consolation to United that even Real coach Jose Mourinho said the best team had lost, but in a way they can at least take solace that they were ultimately and only undone by one of their own finest products.