'I could see Ronaldo return' -- Vidic
As Nemanja Vidic and Cristiano Ronaldo discussed "family stuff, the kids" and traded jokes in Manchester United's dressing-room at the Bernabeu after the 1-1 first-leg draw three weeks ago, the visitors' captain was taken back to the days when the pair were team-mates lifting the European Cup in Moscow.
Ronaldo will tonight play at Old Trafford for the first time since his £80m transfer four years ago, and there are rumours that the Real Madrid forward's return could precede a more permanent one in the summer.
United manager Alex Ferguson has dismissed the prospect as a "false hope", but Vidic believes it may not be as far-fetched an idea as it seems, from Ronaldo's perspective at least. "I could see it," Vidic said.
"He is a United supporter and he still follows United, he still misses the club and the environment here, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him come back.
"It would be a big ask for many reasons, but I would love to see him here. I don't know what atmosphere he has at Madrid, so I can't really talk about that, but all I can say is that I enjoyed playing with him, he enjoyed it here and it will be great to see him.
"I think he was a bit nervous in the first game, but it will be different at Old Trafford. He will be focused and we shouldn't think that he will have a bad game. He will be motivated to have a great game and to win it for Real Madrid."
Having missed United's draw in the Bernabeu three weeks ago due to concerns over his ability to play two games in four days following knee surgery, Vidic is hopeful of making up for that disappointment tonight as his team aim to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Stopping Ronaldo, Vidic concedes, will be the key for United and the centre-half insists that, despite the perceived hierarchy in world football, the Portuguese is on a par with Barcelona's Lionel Messi and deserves to be recognised as such.
"They are different players, totally different," Vidic said.
"But in recent years, Barcelona have won everything and I think that is why people have put Ronaldo to one side.
"I have played with him and trained with him and I know how many sacrifices he made to be where he is. He worked so hard on everything and people forget that.
"They just look at Ronaldo as though he is only interested in fashion and having his picture taken, but the truth is that he has always trained harder than anyone else. He has a lot of talent, but 75pc of what he does is because he has worked hard. He has worked on his speed, his technique, his shooting. Everything.
"He plays on the left side, but he changes position a lot. He will end up in the middle, look to shoot, so it is up to the team to stop him. Every time he walks onto the pitch, he wants to score and he has that hunger in every game."
Missing out on facing Ronaldo in the Bernabeu, Vidic admits, was a blow, but one he had been expecting. Having undergone knee surgery twice in the space of 10 months last year, the 31-year-old has seen his appearances 'managed' by Ferguson, with the Scot reluctant to overwork the defender and disrupt his recovery.
"I had never played in the Bernabeu and I have to say I was sad because everybody wanted to play in that game," said Vidic, who played 90 minutes against Norwich City on Saturday.
"But the manager had to manage the games and the players and he chose to go with that team and it went well. I had played against Everton four days before, so I knew then that I wasn't going to play against Real.
"I was available, but after so long out of the game, two games in four days was a lot for me and the manager chose to go with the other guys. But I am fit now, I can play two games in four days and I want to play because, if we beat Real, we have a great chance of winning the European Cup."
Vidic has already experienced the elation of lifting that trophy with United, but with supporters beginning to talk up another Treble to emulate the success of 1999, he has urged caution ahead of a week in which United face Real and then Chelsea in the FA Cup.
"It is important to be focused because, in two or three games, you can screw your whole year," Vidic said.
"This week we have Real Madrid and Chelsea, in the Champions League and FA Cup, so this is what I am saying.
"It looks a great season now, but it is only a great season when it is finished and we have the trophies. I have been here for seven years and people have always spoken about 1999 and the Treble team.
"We of course want to do it, but I don't think we should be pressured by that. It would be great to win it again, but it is a big ask. We are still in three competitions, but the end of the season will show where we are and how good we are as a club. It is now important to show our class and our mentality.
"We have to be focused and sharp, sharp in the mind, and not think about whether we might get AC Milan or Barcelona in the next round of the Champions League.
"Three trophies? We can do it, but everything has to be the right way." (© Daily Telegraph, London)