Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo opens up about his love for Manchester United in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:
Q: Cristiano, this will be the first time you have played at Old Trafford since leaving for Real Madrid in 2009. How much are you looking forward to it?
A: Very much! It's going to be a really nice reunion for me with the fans and the players at Old Trafford. I'm looking forward to it because it's been a long, long time. I'm sure the United fans will receive me well.
Q: Was this the tie you have been dreaming of?
A: Perhaps, but if I am honest I would say I would have liked to face Manchester United in the final. But the most important thing is to work to reach the final. Real Madrid's aim is always to win.
Q: The Champions League played a big part in your career at United. Your last ever game for them was in the Final in 2009 - and of course you won the trophy in Moscow in 2008. What are your memories of that time?
A: That was a great day, but to win the trophy on penalty kicks was nerve-wracking, especially as I missed one. My dream is to go back to the final with Real, to score and to win. The Champions League has always been important for me and it's the same for Real. The club has won it nine times and everyone wants to get the tenth. This is the season to do it. That is what I am focused on.
Q: How do you feel about Manchester United and that time in your career? Do you still have a 'soft spot' for your former club?
A: Of course. Manchester was my home and is still in my heart. I love the place. You never forget when people treat you right. You never forget the people who work there and the fans. So I'm very happy to return to Manchester. It's going to be special; but of course I am going there to try and win with Real.
Q: The tie is really evenly balanced after the first leg, which ended 1-1. But do you think Real can go to Old Trafford and win?
A: More than anyone I know how difficult it is going to be; because I know how good United are and they have an amazing manager in Sir Alex Ferguson.
But I have a feeling we will win, because in my mind Real Madrid are the better team. I think it is going to work out. But we will have to work very hard on the pitch because United are a close-knit team and have been together for a long time. They will fight for each other and to stay in the Champions League. We will have to be at our best for sure.
Q: You scored in the first leg of course - but you didn't celebrate. Why was that?
A: It's simple. It's because I played in Manchester for six years and it was very emotional for me. It was a very tough game, very tough. I think we should have scored more goals and I still believe we will go through - I'm sure we will create chances at Old Trafford. But I have a lot of respect for Manchester United and I know how tough it will be.
Q: You said recently that there's more pressure at Real Madrid than at Manchester United, which seems incredible. Is that true?
A: I've been here for three-and-a-half years now and I think that's the case because everyone involved is totally focused on winning the club's tenth European Cup.
That creates a certain amount of anxiety, which can be felt at all times. But that's natural. It's a great club.
Q: How does it feel taking the victories over Barca to the Champions League second leg against Manchester United?
A: It’s a great feeling and it makes me more confident- especially the victory in the Copa Del Rey knock out match in which I scored twice. That win over Barca has given us the added edge for our match against Manchester United.
Q: You say Sir Alex is a great manager too; was he important in your career in those days at Old Trafford?
A: Oh, very important. He is the coach who taught me how to be a footballer. I arrived in Manchester when I was just 18 remember. He directed my career in the best possible way and for me he's one of the most important people in the world of football. I have a great relationship with him and it will be good to see him again.
Q: How does he compare to Jose Mourinho, your manager at Real?
A: They are both great managers, both experienced, and both always want to win everything they can. That's why they have been champions so many times.
Q: Who do you still keep in contact with at Manchester United all these years after you left?
A: Lots of people; but especially Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Anderson and of course Nani. We are always talking and joking.
Q: Everyone has been talking about the possibility of you returning to Manchester United next year because your new contract at Real is not yet signed. What's the news on your contract?
A: I am not going to talk about it because what I am concentrating on is trying to win the Champions League with Real. It's not something to talk about now.
Professional Management Group