Sporting Lisbon manager Ruben Amorim has joked that Cristiano Ronaldo must not be allowed to play against his beloved first club should they draw Manchester United in the Europa League.
Ronaldo and his teammates must go through a play-off match to progress to the last-16 this season after finishing second in Group E. United needed to beat Real Sociedad by two goals to cement top spot and they were only able to score the one in San Sebastian on Thursday night.
Argentina starlet Alejandro Garnacho settled the scores with his first goal for the club and Ronaldo played his part there with an inch-perfect assist. Garnacho, 18, credits the five-time Ballon d’Or winner as his idol in the game while that link-up has drawn widespread attention with both players messaging each other on social media.
Due to the World Cup and the ongoing domestic matters, United will not play in Europe until February when they and other second-placed teams meet one of the clubs who were eliminated from the Champions League. Possible opponents for United include Ajax, Barcelona and Juventus.
Sporting are, also, in the hat for that additional Europa League stage and their connection with Ronaldo needs no explanation. He progressed through the ranks there before touching down at Old Trafford for the first time in 2003 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ronaldo was even tentatively linked with a return to the Portuguese side this summer – amid ongoing speculation over his future. He played 31 games for Sporting before his first move to United.
Current manager Amorim was pressed on that potential reunion ahead of Monday’s draw. He said: “We don’t want Manchester United, but if we have to, Ronaldo stays on the bench, so he doesn’t score goals.”
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