Sir Alex Ferguson has told Cristiano Ronaldo to establish himself as a Manchester United hero before eventually making the move to Real Madrid.
Ronaldo got off the mark for the season with a trademark bullet header in a 3-1 Carling Cup third round win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday.
The game represented the winger’s first start following a summer transfer saga involving Primera Liga giants Real.
Ronaldo had looked set to depart for the Spanish capital until Ferguson convinced his most potent attacking weapon to remain at Old Trafford.
The 24-year-old may have seen his iconic status in the eyes of the United faithful slip slightly as a result of his summer dalliances with Real, but he appears to have been welcomed back from ankle surgery with open arms following a disappointing start to the campaign by last season’s Premier League champions.
Ferguson is understandably delighted to have Ronaldo back among his ranks and, while he accepts the Latin star may head for pastures new in the future, he is backing the precociously gifted playmaker to etch his name into Red Devils folklore.
“I think Cristiano has come to accept that at this stage of his career, United is the place for him,” said the Red Devils boss.
“Southern Europeans want at some point to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, so I understood what was going on in Cristiano’s mind when he declared he wanted to join Real.
“But once we had talked he accepted it was a move for the future.
“I pointed out to him how much better it would be to leave like Eric Cantona, with the fans loving and appreciating him.
“The crowd still chant Cantona’s name and I told Cristiano ‘Leave a hero like Eric’ and one day he will. But not yet.”