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By ESPN Staff

Ronaldo relishes return to Sporting Lisbon

Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted he never tires of watching the game which transformed him into a star. Four years ago last month, Ronaldo turned in such an outstanding performance for Sporting Lisbon in their friendly win over Manchester United that Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs spent the journey home imploring Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the Madeira-born teenager. Within weeks, Ferguson had acted on the advice, with the eventual £12million transfer fee now being heralded as one of the shrewdest bits of business he has ever done. After curbing the excessive use of tricks which were a hallmark of his early days at Old Trafford, Ronaldo has gone on to become one of the best players on the planet. But, for all his stellar performances in a United shirt, he still likes to look back fondly on virtually his last appearance for Sporting. 'I have watched that game many times,' he admitted. 'It was a spectacular match for a lot of reasons - it was our first game in the new stadium, there was a capacity crowd and it was against Manchester United, a team I have always dreamt about playing for. 'Now that dream has come true.' Ferguson will hope for something spectacular from Ronaldo in the first competitive rematch between the sides as United open their latest Champions League quest in the Jose Alvalade Stadium After torrid returns to his homeland against Porto and, twice, Benfica, Ronaldo is expecting a more positive reception tonight. 'I played here for seven years, I have a lot of friends here and I have always wanted to come back,' he said. 'I know people like me here. At Benfica they barrack me, here my reception will be good. 'But however much I like the club, my first colours now are red and I hope to win with Manchester United.' Ferguson, who must decide whether to bring Wayne Rooney straight back into his starting line-up or leave the England forward on the substitutes' bench, has expressed his concern about Ronaldo becoming a trophy target for referees. Already this term the Madeira-born star has been sent off for an apparent head-butt and booked for diving, although in neither instance does the United chief believe Ronaldo had done anything wrong. 'It is a worry for us,' said Ferguson. 'It is almost as though Cristiano is being punished for his success. 'There is no question in my mind there is an unfairness about it all. 'We have looked at the Portsmouth one from another angle and it was a quite ridiculous decision. Hughes said Cristiano never touched him, so he gets a three-match ban for that. 'And the one on Saturday was even more ludicrous. Quite clearly, Cristiano was tripped on the edge of the area. Why would Cristiano go down when he can score? On that occasion, the referee reacted far too quickly.' Ferguson's concerns were only heightened when he was informed excitable German referee Herbert Fandel was in charge. It would be fair to conclude United have an unhappy history as far as Fandel is concerned. A trained pianist, Fandel has played all the wrong notes for Ferguson in the past, sending off Roy Keane during a stormy last-16 tussle with FC Porto three years ago before producing another red card to get rid of Paul Scholes in last season's quarter-final first leg against AS Roma. Initially, Ferguson buried his head in his hands as Fandel's name was mentioned, before humorously stating: 'We need a supply of mogadon.'