Cristiano Ronaldo: Expectations for Real Madrid Star in Return to Old Trafford

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo has been quiet for Real Madrid this season, and the reigning Spanish La Liga champions are struggling to keep pace with rival Barcelona as a result. 

But while Madrid gets set to enjoy a two-week, mid-winter break, it's time we look forward to Ronaldo's much anticipated return to Old Trafford this coming February. Madrid will visit Manchester on Feb. 13 in the first leg of its UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matchup with Premier League powerhouse Manchester United.

But more than a mega clash, Feb. 13's showdown will be a homecoming of sorts for one of the world's greatest footballers.

Ronaldo played some of the best football of his career under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford from 2003 to 2009, scoring 84 goals in 196 Premier League appearances with United. Ronaldo also experienced perhaps his greatest career accomplishment to date with United, winning the Champions League with the club in 2008 and then being named FIFA World Player of the Year.

Now, an underachieving Ronaldo must face off against his old club in a match with huge implications. But don't lower your expectations just because he has only 14 goals through 17 La Liga matches (Barca's Lionel Messi has 26 through 17 matches) this season. After all, he's averaging a goal per match in UCL play in 2012. 

What to Expect at Old Trafford

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As always with Cristiano Ronaldo, fans can expect plenty of shots. Ronaldo has more than twice as many shots (37) as Madrid's second-leading shot taker, Angel Di Maria in UCL play. The good news is that more than a third of Ronaldo's shots (16) have fallen on target.

But beyond the plethora of shots Ronaldo is sure to fire on goal, look for a more inspired all-around effort from the Portuguese sensation. You better believe Ronaldo will want to make an impression on his former fans and supporters in his old home stadium.

Expect the superstar to play some rare, blue-collar football, hurrying back in defense and looking to do whatever necessary to help his team earn the away victory.

No, Ronaldo hasn't been as lethal this season as he has been in the past, but as he gets set to turn 28 (eight days before the Manchester United match), his big game experience and desire to prove to United that he's still the best the game has to offer will result in countless shots and at least one goal at Old Trafford.

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