Mixed emotions for Ronaldo after winner

September 19, 2007

Goalscoring hero Cristiano Ronaldo admitted to mixed emotions after his header sealed a 1-0 win for Manchester United at Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.

The winger received a warm reception from home fans at the club where he began his professional career, but there was no room for sentiment when he nodded home Wes Brown's cross in the 62nd minute for the only goal of the Group F match.

Ronaldo, whose celebrations were muted, told Sky Sports afterwards: 'I feel good.

'This is my colour, red, this is my team, but I like Sporting - it's my second home and I am a little bit sad, but Manchester is my team.

'These people are very important to me. But I am happy for the victory and three points.'

He added: 'It was a perfect night - I score, I win, it was great for Manchester United.'

Ronaldo was thrilled to have negotiated a potentially difficult night.

'It is always important to win away,' he said.

'It was a fantastic game that everyone enjoyed and I think the result was fair.'

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to open with a win away from Old Trafford as his side continued to bury their reputation for European travel sickness.

'Winning your first game away from home sets the tone for us,' he said.

'At half-time we looked to improve our game with more penetration and I think we did.

'They had some opportunities on the edge of the box but never really opened us up.'

Ferguson was happy with Wayne Rooney's contribution as he lasted more than 70 minutes in his first appearance since breaking his foot on the opening day of the season.

'It was difficult to know how long to keep him on but the goal made it easy,' he said.

'I'm sure he'll be ready for Sunday (against Chelsea).'

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Ronaldo to exceed last season's 23-goal tally.

'He scored 23 goals last season and it is absolutely realistic that he could at least achieve that again,' Ferguson said.

'We expect him to improve as a footballer. We expect to see the development in his football.

'He has two great feet, he is marvellous in the air and there is no reason why he can't do even better than he did last year.'

After spending seven of his formative years at Sporting, the home fans have clearly not lost their affection for the Madeira-born star.

He was afforded a standing ovation when he was replaced by Carlos Tevez four minutes from time.

'That is a rarity in modern football,' observed Ferguson.

'Cristiano is obviously one of their former players and it probably reflects how grateful they are to have nurtured such an incredible young talent.

'Sporting developed him for seven years, now we are fortunate to have him for what we hope will be the best years of his life.'

Although United were not at their best, in the end they could have won by more as both Ronaldo and Louis Saha missed late chances.

With Wayne Rooney lasting 70 minutes on his return to action for the first time since breaking his foot on the opening day of the season, it is a satisfactory evening all round for the Red Devils.

However, Ferguson acknowledged the visitors were indebted to the performance of veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar who produced two superb saves from Liedson and Tonel.

'When I bought him three years ago I felt Edwin was going to be one of my best signings,' said Ferguson.

'I should have done it years ago when I had the chance but I let it slip through my fingers.

'He still has such great enthusiasm even though he has 120 caps for Holland and has won everything as a player.

'It is marvellous for our other keepers that they have someone like that to learn from.'

Sporting coach Paulo Bento - a former team-mate of Ronaldo's - felt the outcome did scant justice to his team's efforts.

'The result wasn't fair and the deciding factor was United's goalkeeper,' he said, before adding in a more sporting manner: 'I wasn't surprised at the reception Cristiano got.

'Fans respect former players who have given this club great service and I was pleased they showed their appreciation for him.'