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By ESPN Staff

Ronaldo confident after Sporting rocket

Cristiano Ronaldo saw off his old club for the second time this season in the Champions League - and then claimed his Manchester United team can win the competition.

The Red Devils made it five wins out of five in Group F with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sporting Lisbon at Old Trafford in which they needed Ronaldo's injury-time free-kick to clinch the points last night.

United looked anything but potential champions for much of the game, particularly in a dismal first half when Abel's rasping shot from near the touchline beat an embarrassed Tomasz Kuszczak at his near post.

But Ronaldo, putting aside all sentiment over his goal which confirmed Sporting's place in the UEFA Cup, insisted he saw enough in a much-improved second-half display to convince him United are genuine contenders.

'It's fantastic,' he said.

'You are in a good way winning all the games; you play fantastically - and people like to see Manchester play.'

Ronaldo, who also scored the winner in Lisbon in September, added: 'The second round, I hope we do the same job. You have the team; you have the group; you have the coaches - I think we have everything to win the Champions League.

'In the second half we were better - good passes, good crosses - and we scored two goals. We deserved to win, because we played better.

'I always try to score and I am happy, not just because it's Sporting - they respect me and I respect Sporting, but my colour now is red.'

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was left to delight in Ronaldo's unstoppable 25-yard effort, and ponder a close match which appeared to be ebbing away from his team until he introduced Carlos Tevez at the interval - the Argentinian prodding home his team's first goal on the hour mark.

'It was a marvellous strike,' Ferguson said of Ronaldo's screamer.

'He's done it before - he works very hard at that - but it was a truly exceptional goal.

'We just marginally won it. We were not a great deal better than Sporting but increased our game in the second half - more speed and tempo - and managed to just edge it.'

On a night when his team clinched top spot in their group with a match to play, Ferguson was also able to offer more good news to United fans with confirmation that Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney are both on course to return from injury in the next week - Neville for the reserves tomorrow and Rooney against Fulham in the Barclays Premier League on Monday.

By making next month's clash with Roma a dead rubber, Ferguson can consider sending a second-string team to the Italian capital and concentrate on the potentially crucial league match at Liverpool four days later on December 16.

'It is important in the sense that when we go to Rome I will certainly be able to use all my squad,' he said.

'One or two might not travel, because there's an important game coming up against Liverpool.'