Ronaldo confident of winning back fans

Man United's bid to become the first club to win back-to-back Champions League trophies can only be strengthened by Ronaldo's timely return to action.

updated: September 19, 2008 17:54 IST
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Manchester United's bid to become the first club to win back-to-back Champions League trophies, which begins against Villarreal, can only be strengthened by Cristiano Ronaldo's timely return to action.

Whether that self-evident fact will be reflected in the reception the Portuguese winger gets here on Wednesday in what will be his first appearance in a United shirt since undergoing ankle surgery after Euro 2008 is far from certain however.

No one did more than Ronaldo to inspire Sir Alex Ferguson's squad to last season's double of league and European titles.

But his subsequent protracted attempts to engineer a summer move to Real Madrid were not well received among United fans, and, like an errant husband, Ronaldo has some work to do to ensure he is forgiven his infidelity.

Typically, the 23-year-old professes to harbour no doubts about his ability to seduce the Old Trafford faithful all over again.

"When I put on that shirt, I give my all," he declared. "I am already in the history of the club. When I play again, the fans will love me again."

In Ronaldo's absence, United have made a sluggish start to the season on the domestic front and Ferguson will be hoping his return proves to be the catalyst for a sustained improvement on the supine display that resulted in a rare league defeat by Liverpool at the weekend.

Against Villarreal, who have former Arsenal star Robert Pires and a former United striker, Guiseppe Rossi, in their squad, any improvement will have to come without the involvement of Paul Scholes, who is suspended after his red card in last month's Super Cup defeat by Zenit St Petersburg, and fellow midfielder Michael Carrick, who suffered a foot injury at Anfield.

But Ferguson was bullish about his side's prospects of quickly shaking off the hangover from events at Anfield as he targets progress from a group that also includes the Scottish and Danish champions, Celtic and Aalborg BK.

"You have to recover, that's the name of the game," the Scot said. "It's the Champions League and I think we are in a good group and I think we have a good chance of qualifying.

"The way I look at the Champions League is to get to 10 points. If you get that you know you have qualified and you can look forward to February when it really starts to kick in."

Not since the great AC Milan team of the late eighties lifted the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 has any club claimed European football's biggest prize in successive years, and no team has managed it since the current Champions League format was introduced in 1992.

Having being forced to wait nine years between his first success in the competition, in 1999, and last season's triumph in Moscow, Ferguson is impatient for another taste of glory.

"It's absolutely the case that winning again this season and immediately reaching four victories in this competition is the most important thing," Ferguson told UEFA.Com.

"That achievement would be fantastic for our club. Obviously we take nothing for granted. Villarreal are a very strong side, second last year in the Spanish league and very, very consistent in general under Manuel Pellegrini.

"I regard them as the main danger to us winning Group E. Celtic are always a difficult game, particularly at their ground where the atmosphere makes it a tough night. Aalborg are the more unknown quantity but the fact that they are in the Champions League means they have won the right to our respect."