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Manchester United FC

Cristiano Ronaldo is the question on everybody’s lips as Manchester United’s Hong Kong PR trip gets hijacked

Despite the best efforts of Old Trafford legends to promote club projects, Hong Kong Manchester United fans only want to know one thing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 5:27pm

People may think it’s a cosy life being a Manchester United legend in Hong Kong.

You get an all-expenses paid trip to promote this or that programme, or a personal project you are looking to get eyeballs on.

But however much you shill, there is only one question on the minds of Hong Kong United fans right now.

That is: is Cristiano Ronaldo coming ‘home’ to Old Trafford?

“I think we all want Cristiano back at Manchester United,” said club legend Phil Neville, on a promotional tour in Hong Kong with the ‘Class of 92’ to announce a new interactive football gaming app called Ballr.

“He’s one of the best footballers that we’ve ever played with. We were lucky we saw him when he was 19, before he became a world star.”

Ronaldo joined United aged 18 for £12.24 million (HK$124m) from Sporting Lisbon in August 2003.

At Old Trafford, under the guidance of Alex Ferguson, he blossomed into a world-class player, helping the club win three Premier League titles and the Champions League during his six seasons, as well as picking up the Ballon d’or in 2008.

But he pined for a “dream” move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, and got his wish in an £80m transfer in 2009.

He has been at the Bernabeu ever since, despite flirting with a potential return to United in 2013 before signing a lucrative new Madrid contract.

Former Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt ride the subway and meet top jockeys on Hong Kong promo trip

But reports in Portugal and Spain claim Ronaldo has made an “irreversible” decision to leave Madrid having been caught up in a Spanish tax investigation.

“We get asked all the time – who’s the best player, [Lionel] Messi or Ronaldo? It’s a comparison you don’t like to answer.

“But for me, Cristiano is someone who became one of the best players in the world and even now he’s winning all the medals and Champions Leagues.

“He’s a fantastic, fantastic footballer who I want to see in a Manchester United shirt again.”

But, sadly for United fans, hope and reality are two different things.

“I think he will stay at Real Madrid for the rest of his career,” said Phil’s brother Gary Neville, who won 17 major trophies at United including eight Premier League titles and the Champions League, and has become an authoritative voice in the game through his role as a commentator and analyst for Sky Sports in England.

“There is speculation, there’s the issue that’s been emphasised in the last few weeks, but I think he will eventually stay at Madrid.

Class of ’92 say Chinese clubs must nurture grassroots talent like Manchester United did with them

“If he wants to come back to United I would be happy but I don’t see it happening. I don’t think it will happen.”

Last week another of Ronaldo’s former teammates, Louis Saha, was in Hong Kong to help announce a project that will see United’s under-16 academy squad head to Hong Kong in August to spend two weeks visiting and training with their counterparts at the Hong Kong Football Association.

Amid a scrum of local reporters all holding microphones and pointing cameras in his face inside the Chater Room at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Clubhouse, straight off the bat the Frenchman was asked about Ronaldo.

“Yes, I do hope Cristiano Ronaldo returns to United,” said Saha.

“He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s proved he’s an immense player capable of winning the Champions League twice in a row.

“It would be a great connection. He’s still a great player, even though he’s older now than when he used to play for United.

“But for sure, it would be a great thing. We can talk about rumours all day, but only time will say.”