EXCLUSIVE: Mark Hughes knows a thing or two about returning to Manchester United and is backing Cristiano Ronaldo to have a huge impact ahead of his second debut
The Old Trafford and Wales legend, who was also feted after making a similar second coming following moves to Barcelona and Bayern Munich, watched in awe as Ronaldo became international football’s greatest goalscorer in midweek.
The 36-year-old, who left Juventus just before the transfer window closed for an emotional Red Devils homecoming, was again pure box office with two late headed goals for Portugal against the Republic of Ireland.
Hughes said: “Cristiano continues to set different standards. To set it all up for his United return with what he did on Wednesday night is typical of the man.
“It’s just meant to be for him – he is the ultimate showman who can always deliver.”
Like Ronaldo, the Old Trafford club courses through the former Wales striker’s veins. And he felt the same emotion as the Portuguese when Alex Ferguson brought him back to Manchester United following a big move to Barcelona, who a season later loaned him to Bayern Munich.
“It’s fantastic for Manchester United and it’s good for him,” Hughes added. “It makes sense him going back. It’s the right time and the right opportunity and there’s no reason why he can’t make a success of this.
“Certainly when I went back I had the opportunity to stay in Germany with a great club, Bayern Munich.
“I was having a great time and it was only the fact that it was Manchester United, because to anybody else trying to get me back I would have said, ‘No’.
“It’s the pull of the club. I had been there since I was a kid. I had an emotional pull and attachment so when I knew they wanted me back it was an easy decision for me as an individual and for my family as well.
“I’m sure Cristiano has had similar feelings and has gone through similar emotions.
“People comment on the size of fees and the money involved but that’s not an issue for Cristiano because he is a very wealthy man.
“It’s quite refreshing when money hasn’t been a deciding factor in this transfer. It’s happened simply because he wants to be back at United and you would like to think he sees an opportunity to continue winning trophies, which he has done all his career.
“That’s exciting for United because obviously you have a top player who won’t be at his prime – but his 36 is a bit different from everybody else’s 36.
“He’s not going to change. Just look at some of the goals he has scored including the two against the Republic of Ireland. The power he has in his leap for instance.
AFP via Getty Images)
“That starts to diminish as you get older but I haven’t seen any obvious weakening of his physical attributes.”
Hughes insists that Ronaldo will receive a huge welcome in the United dressing room.
He said: “Whenever a new player came into the United dressing rooms you were always judging whether or not the new signing was going to help us win trophies. It was never a problem when top players came in, the likes of Eric Cantona.
“We looked at him in training in the first couple of days and thought, ‘This guy is going to help us win trophies’, so there was never an issue. Ronaldo walking into the dressing room will not be a problem. He’s got that connection with the club and the fans.
“Everyone is looking forward to that first match. I still remember when Eric came back after his enforced break (banned for assaulting a Crystal Palace fan). I watched it on the TV having moved on to Chelsea in the summer and it seemed a fantastic atmosphere.
“I would imagine when Ronaldo walks out against Newcastle the atmosphere will be even better than that.”
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