Cristiano Ronaldo is a fairly polarizing figure—and it seems more than a few folks love to despise the flashy superstar—but he's earned everyone's respect after the classy manner in which he handled himself against Manchester United during Tuesday's Champions League clash.
Ronaldo easily could have celebrated his goal in the second half that gave Real Madrid a 2-1 lead and all but assured that the team would move on to the next round. He could have even broken a smile or done a quick fist pump.
But he didn't.
In his return to Old Trafford—where Ronaldo grew into the superstar we know today—he was subdued in his celebration, embracing his teammates but generally looking like he was torn by the moment.
He wasn't, of course. He's a competitor, and competitors want to win, even against their old teams. However, he showed respect to the fans who once supported him during his Manchester United days, and it was a classy move.
Sure, he probably hooted and hollered in the locker room after the game—who wouldn't?—but he couldn't have handled scoring the back-breaking goal any better.
Of course, the entire match called for a bit of tact from Real Madrid. No matter where you fall on the Nani red card that absolutely changed the nature of the game, it was a questionable call. I thought it was a bit harsh, but it was also a reckless play from Nani and this notion of judging intent is simply absurd.
I didn't love it being called a red, but I understood why the referee made that decision.
After the match, head coach Jose Mourinho said he thought the better team lost and acknowledged that the red card changed the momentum of the game. He could have brushed the incident aside, but instead he paid United the proper respect and acknowledged what was surely the key moment in the game.
Again, a classy move.
Look, you couldn't have faulted Ronaldo for being thrilled after he scored his goal, or Mourinho for completely glossing over the red card. At the end of the day, a man up or not, Real Madrid still did what it had to do to win. It still overcame a 1-0 deficit, and at Old Trafford nonetheless, which is hardly an easy place to play.
Instead, the two men chose to enjoy the moment in a more somber manner. You may not like Ronaldo—or Mourinho, for that matter—but they earned at least a little of your respect on Tuesday.