Cristiano Ronaldo's Endless Love for Man United Should Not Worry Real Madrid

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson the manager of Manchester United face the media during a press conference held at Old Trafford on April 6, 2009 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

For all those involved with Real Madrid, there must be a small part of them that winces every time Cristiano Ronaldo opens up to interviewers about his previous love, Manchester United

Regular, glowing statements from a player about past glories are rare, particularly from one as esteemed as Ronaldo. Footballers—and sportsmen in general—are typically compelled to look ahead, only ever speaking of the journey to come and what is still to be achieved. 

Reminiscing, after all, is viewed as a sign of weakness at the pointy end of sport, an indication that the end is near, that looking forward no longer excites the mind. 

But Ronaldo is a little different.

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 25:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real's 2nd goal during the La liga match between Real Madrid CF and Cordoba CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 25, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/G
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

"I love Manchester," he told the Daily Mail this week.

"Everyone knows thatI have said it many times. Manchester is in my heart. I left many good friends there, the supporters are amazing and I wish I can come back one day."

That last bit might trigger a few of those winces inside the Bernabeu, but his words needn't be a cause for concern. 

Among his generation, no bigger name than his has ever been transferred. Only one player has ever been more expensive. Only one other (Lionel Messi) can rival him for superstardom.

But the very private Barcelona phenomenon has never had to answer the same sort of questions—he's always been at Barcelona. That's left Ronaldo, in an age of unrivalled media attention, in the unique position where he's asked about his former club perhaps more than anyone else ever has. 

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 13:  Cristiano Ronaldo (R) of Real Madrid embraces Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Estadio Santiago
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

"I really did love being at Manchester United. Believe me, they will be a good team again, I'm sure of it. It is a great club," he reinforced once more.

For Ronaldo, the obvious reverence for his former club is just public acknowledgment of their role in the path to where he is now. Though he speaks unrestrained of his appreciation for fans and old friends, sharing a father-and-son dynamic of sorts with Sir Alex Ferguson, the Ballon d'Or winner won't be fleeing back to Old Trafford.

Not in his prime years, anyway. 

"I am happy here in Real Madrid and have four more years, but in the future you never know because they treated me unbelievably there."

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates winning the Barclays Premier League trophy with his mother, Dolores Aveiro after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on Ma
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

One feels the situation might be different if Ferguson was still at United—the one manager Ronaldo refers to as a "friend."

Were the English outfit still at the pinnacle of the European game, still nurturing some of the continent's finest talent, still seriously challenging for major silverware and still in the Champions League, it's possible to imagine Ronaldo returning to Manchester on the more immediate road ahead. 

But in their present state, the Red Devils can't cater for the Portuguese's drive.

"My ambition now is to do the same stuff as last year, win the most important trophies, collectively and individually. I always want to do better than the year before," he said when asked of last season's success. 

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MAY 24: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid lifts the Champions league trophy during the during the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 24, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by La
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Fresh from capturing a 10th European title, Real Madrid is the only place for him, the most obvious destination to compile the record he craves.

And Ronaldo will know that more than anyone. Even if there are some bumps along the way.

Of course, those looking for any hints of dissatisfaction in the 29-year-old regarding Real will have been drawn to his opposition of the sales of Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso, the former heading to Ronaldo's old home at United. 

"If I was in charge, maybe I would not do things like that," he admitted, per ESPN FC.

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 02:   Angel Di Maria (R) of Real Madrid CF celebrates with team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring their team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League match between Real Madrid CF and FC Copenhagen at Estadio Santiago Bernab
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Such a comment will inevitably lead to suggestions of disquiet between Ronaldo and Madrid, but like his public affection for United, that's a consequence of the unparalleled attention he faces and the importance placed upon his words by his own excellence. 

Wince they might have, but those at Real Madrid needn't start covering the exits.

At the core of Ronaldo's footballing existence is still an incessant craving to win, to break new ground on a relentless quest for the ultimate triumph.

He'll know Madrid—and not Manchester—is the place for that right now.