FC Porto centre-back Pepe has revealed that he was taken aback by Manchester United fans on the night that they welcomed Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford in March 2013 for the second leg of a Champions League last-16 tie.
The game marked the first time that CR7 had returned to the Theatre of Dreams following his sensational transfer to Real Madrid during the summer of 2009. Instead of jeering him as some would have expected, the Portugal international was met with a warm applause by United fans.
Ronaldo scored Madrid’s goal during the first leg of the tie, which took place at the Santiago Bernabeu. He also ended up scoring the winning goal in England. United went ahead following an own goal from Sergio Ramos. However, Luka Modric and Ronaldo scored to put Madrid ahead.
“I have some [memories] at Manchester United and Liverpool, but I’d choose Manchester United,” Pepe told JOE.
“It was the way that the Manchester United fans welcomed back Cristiano, even though he left United and went to Real Madrid.
“The spirit of that really stayed with me. It really touched me the way they welcomed him back to Manchester United.”
It is not surprising that Ronaldo was met with a warm reception by United fans. His departure from the club in 2009 was not exactly on bitter terms. He contributed a lot to the Red Devils during his time with them and allowed the club to gain a then record-breaking £80 million for his sale.
Pepe and Ronaldo have played together for more than a decade through the Portugal national team as well as Real Madrid. After moving on from Los Blancos during the summer of 2017, Pepe went to play for Turkish club Besiktas. He has since re-joined Portuguese club Porto where he played between 2004-07.
At Madrid, the duo won three Champions League titles and two La Liga titles together. They have also tasted success together at international level after having won the European Championships in 2016 as well as the first-ever UEFA Nations League this year.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, is currently on the books of Juventus and will be aiming to win another Champions League with a third club during the upcoming season.