Cristiano Ronaldo hadn't been back to Old Trafford to visit his former club since 2009, but his go-ahead goal in the 69th minute didn't give way to any sort of over-excessive jubilation against Manchester United on Sunday.
In fact, Ronaldo didn't celebrate at all.
After an own-goal and a Luka Modric goal left Madrid tied 1-1 with United, Ronaldo slid in towards the far post to net a cross from Gonzalo Higuain. This sealed United's fate and put Madrid through to the quarterfinals in the process.
Instead of a furious outburst of emotion and happiness, Ronaldo went to the net, realized he didn't want to do such a display and put his hand up to wave to the Old Trafford crowd.
The Telegraph Sport posted this picture of the stone-faced Ronaldo after his goal:
Telegraph Sport @TelegraphSport
PIC: Cristiano Ronaldo refuses to celebrate after scoring for Real vs #MUFC http://t.co/8lUQnNiaft2013-3-5 21:12:36
The goal couldn't have come at a better time for Madrid.
After Ronaldo gave Los Blancos an equalizer at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of this last 16 showdown, he made sure to leave his impact against his old team one more time—in front of the fans that both cheered his success and hated his departure from Old Trafford.
Since Ronaldo has felt the heat from United fans for the last four years since his £80 million transfer to Madrid, it would have been well within his right to put on a show.
Maybe even more so given the circumstances.
Madrid hasn't exactly had a stellar season. Ronaldo has felt that pressure, and the always-added weight of playing at one of the most storied stadiums in professional sports certainly didn't help. Throw in an emotional goal and win against FC Barcelona and rival Lionel Messi, and there's no doubt this goal had the potential to be a knee-sliding scream-fest at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo opted to tip his cap to the United faithful, seemingly thanking them for all the support over the years and forgiving them for the rough treatment he received upon leaving in 2009.
When you factor in his comments during pre-match festivities, it's even more clear that Ronaldo has real love for United at heart.
As reported by Goal.com prior to the second leg on Tuesday, Ronaldo admitted that he would love to score a goal against his old club. He noted that his celebration would be "spontaneous," not premeditated, yet he seemed intent on showing no emotion after his 40th goal of the season.
The goal also comes on the heels of his manager, Jose Mourinho, calling him one of the best players of all time (via the Telegraph Sport).
Those kind of expectations place a heavy burden on nearly any player to wear a kit in Europe, yet Ronaldo didn't show any of that pressure on Tuesday.
As noted by the team's official Twitter account, it was also his 22nd career away goal in Champions League play (which is good for third all-time):
FC Barcelona Fl @FCBarcelonaFl
Most away goals in the Champions League: Messi 25, Ruud van Nistelrooy 24, Cristiano Ronaldo 22 #UCL [via @infostradalive]2013-3-5 21:28:20
Celebrations are part of football.
Players are well within their right to take a victory lap or address the crowd after a goal, especially a goal of this magnitude in a major Champions League game. With his history at Old Trafford well-documented, it wouldn't have been much of a surprise to see Ronaldo enjoy himself on the pitch he once called home.
But he didn't.
In a sign of respect to Sir Alex Ferguson, his former teammates and all the United fans that watched him blossom into the top-tier player he is today, Ronaldo neglected the celebration in favor of an age-old characteristic than many professional athletes often lack.
It's called humility.
Ronaldo had plenty of it today, and there's no doubt United fans will remember this show of respect when thinking of his six-year run with the Red Devils.
And this time, they will think of it fondly.