I remember, a few days short of a decade ago, when the fatter version of Ronaldo visited Old Trafford, like it was yesterday. One of the most enthralling, emotional and bittersweet nights of football at Old Trafford . A galaxy of stars at show at their peak - from the likes of Zidane ,Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo to Beckham and Nistelrooy. United were trailing 1-3 from the first leg. They found themselves at the receiving end of a Ronaldo masterclass. He scored 3 goals with barely 3 shots or so at goal. A Beckham led revival led to a 4-3 win on the night but United were knocked out of the Cup. I remember feeling insanely proud of the effort that night - never since have I felt like that in a defeat. It also remains the only time I've seen a visiting player get a standing ovation at Old Trafford. That night was special.
Fast forward a decade and a much leaner and arguably a better version of Ronaldo visits Old Trafford in the whites of Real Madrid. This version of Ronaldo is highly familiar with the sight having plied his trade there for many years winning virtually everything there's to win. It's going to be another emotional night for United fans - but they'd be hoping and praying the result this time is different.
The encounter this time isn't probably as glamorous as the last, but to throw out the cliche that Jose's been repeating in pressers in the run up - "the whole world will stop to watch this game".
It feels odd given how long Fergie has been in the game - but how big is his selection dilemma for tomorrow? By my reckoning, De Gea, Evra, Rafael, Rio, Rooney, Carrick and RvP are a lock in to play. Evans too since Vidic played on Saturday. That leaves 4 spots to fill from the pool - Anderson, Nani, Young, Valencia, Kagawa, Giggs, Scholes, Smalling,Cleverley and Welbeck. What a headache! Will he go for the same conservative approach and crowd it down the middle to stifle Ronaldo? Or will he go for more width given home comforts? What does Kagawa's hat-trick over the weekend do to his plans? Will he play Smalling in Jones' role? Will Rooney be sacrificed on the flanks again? Will Giggs get a start in the centre? This is definitely the most closely watched team news in recent times! I bet he made up his mind a week or so back but the fans won't find out for another 12 hours - the wait is excruciating! I'm not even going to attempt to pick the team - no use given Fergie's record - there will definitely be a surprise tomorrow.
When the tie was announced, I looked at Madrid's fixture list and kinda laughed at their luck - they had to play Barcelona twice in a week before playing us. I smiled. Now they've beaten the best team in the world twice in a week and are playing the best they have all season - the joke is on me! All in all - the set up has been great for another brilliant night of football. There's nothing between the two sides. May the best team Manchester United Win!