Sir Alex Ferguson admits he'd "like to think" Cristiano Ronaldo could one day return to Manchester United - but concedes any club would face a difficult task in luring the Portuguese goal machine away from Real Madrid.
The former Old Trafford star is due to fly into Manchester on Tuesday, ahead of his current club's UEFA Champions League clash with City at the Etihad Stadium. United fans still chant his name and he's likely to receive a warm welcome from any Reds he meets on the trip.
"He’s an unbelievable player," stated Sir Alex. "One of the best, no doubt about that. We have had a great pantheon of players but no question Ronaldo compares with any of them. In his last season, he made five chances every match - he's a brilliant player."
When asked if he regrets not inserting a buy-back option in Ronaldo's sale, Sir Alex laughed: "How do you know I haven't? He always wanted to play for Real, it was a boyhood dream, but I’m not saying he’ll stay there forever. He might leave, you never know."
It was suggested that the door is always open to a sensational return to United.
"I don’t think it’ll happen but I would like to think it would [be]," Sir Alex admitted. "We’d be talking incredible amounts of money now. What do you think his value would be? He’s never injured. When does he ever miss a game? Who could afford him? One of the Russian clubs could buy him but do you think he’d go to Russia? He complained about the weather here so imagine him in the middle of winter in Russia!
"I speak to Cristiano quite regularly. He’s always available to talk to, and he’s always wishing us well. I think our result is the first one he looks for, no doubt about that."