Rio Ferdinand hopes the emotion of facing his former club will be too much for Cristiano Ronaldo when Manchester United visit Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Ferdinand will face his old team-mate for the first time since Ronaldo moved to Spain in 2009. The pair played together for six years at United, and the defender believes that attachment may affect Ronaldo’s performance.
“It’s obviously going to be an emotional night for Ronaldo and a great night for him too,” Ferdinand is quoted as saying in the Daily Mirror. “But hopefully it gets too emotional for him.
“We’ve had a few texts, but when you get into a situation like this when you’re coming up against a friend, all the texts and the conversations go to one side and you don’t really speak until you actually get the game over and done with.
“He has a great rapport with the fans and there is a mutual respect between them both, which is great. The fans appreciated him when he was here and since he’s been gone they sing his name. He came here a young boy and left a world-class player. He showed a lot of respect when he left and still does.
“We’re going to have to use all of our experience, courage and ability to make sure that we stop not only Ronaldo, but the other players they have, because Real are a great team.
“They have so many other weapons. We could shut Ronaldo down for 90 minutes, but they still have players to hurt us, so we have to be compact and work hard.”
Meanwhile, Ferdinand’s fellow United defender Rafael says he is relishing the chance to take on Ronaldo – who he describes as “the best player in the world” – after battling him for years on the training pitch.
“I know what he can do because I played and trained with him a lot,” said Rafael. “So he’s not the type of opponent where you would say ‘he’s good but I don’t know what he can do’. I know what he can do.
“If you concentrate, that’s the key, reading the game. For me, he’s the best player in the world. I think he’s the complete player and I really like him. I think he’s the number one. I’m sure he’ll get a good reception back here [at Old Trafford]. I think it’ll be massive.”