Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno has suggested Manchester United will face a difficult task attempting to lure Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford.
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Ronaldo was clearly touched by the affection he received from the Old Trafford faithful last week, which remained even after the winger scored the goal that sent United crashing out of the Champions League.
It merely heightened a feeling that has existed for some time that the 28-year-old might be tempted by a return to Old Trafford, so it was no surprise reports emerged that sportswear giants Nike – who sponsor both United and Ronaldo – were working on a plan aimed at coming up with the huge finance required to complete such an audacious transfer.
United have not entirely distanced themselves from that speculation, even if there seem to be doubts over whether Ronaldo is interested in a move and he might be using his old club as a negotiating tool over an extension to his current deal, which is due to expire in 2015.
Certainly there is no hint from the Madrid end that they are looking to off-load a player who took his goals tally to 26 in La Liga alone on Saturday night when he bagged two more in Real’s latest victory over Celta Vigo.
Speaking at a Manchester United Foundation event to launch a Red Devils’ Legends match against Real Madrid on June 2, Butragueno, now a Real director, offered no obvious reason for optimism about United’s chances of getting the 2008 world player of the year back.
"Cristiano is under contract and we are very happy with him," he said.
"We are delighted he is at Madrid because he is a fantastic professional, and very ambitious in a positive way.
"His contribution to the team and the club has been amazing since he arrived.
"We are very grateful he came to us and are lucky he plays for Real Madrid."
Ronaldo has scored 38 goals in all competitions for Real this season.
He has found the net in 11 out of their last 18 games, scoring 19 in the process, and for Butragueno, a legendary striker himself, watching Ronaldo perform at the peak of his powers is an eye-opening experience.
"He scores a goal a game on average. This is incredible," he said.
"I have been watching football since I was three and never saw anything like that.
"When Ronaldo is on the pitch, you know you are going to score. It is an incredible advantage."
United are hoping to match the crowd in excess of 60,000 that Real attracted for the first fixture between the sides last year.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke have already pledged to play, whilst it is also anticipated Denis Irwin and Lee Sharpe will turn out for the Red Devils.
Some star names from Real’s illustrious past can also be anticipated for the Old Trafford encounter, although given what happened in the Champions League last week, it does not appear the referee will be Turkish.
"Turkey doesn’t have any referees," joked Bryan Robson.