David Beckham has warned Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo's first return to Old Trafford in opposition next week will "inspire" the Portuguese as he seeks to ensure Real Madrid's progress into the Champions League quarter-finals at his former club's expense.
The former England captain, who spent nine glittering years in the first team at United before joining Real in 2003, returned to face United while on loan with Milan three years ago and left the pitch that night with an anti-Glazer yellow and green protest scarf draped around his neck.
Real remain very much alive in the last-16 tie following the 1-1 draw at the Bernabéu. "It will be an exciting game, and a special night for Cristiano going back to Manchester," said Beckham, who started his first game for Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday's 2-0 French Cup success over Marseille.
"United has a special place in his heart. The fans love him and it will be a great occasion. You enjoy going back [to your former club] and I am sure it will inspire him. Many things inspire great players and him going back will be a special night.
"United did very well at the Bernabéu. It will be a great game to watch. They are two great teams with great players, so it's difficult to call."
Beckham has been registered by PSG for the Champions League and will be involved in the squad for next week's return leg against Valencia at Parc des Princes, with Carlo Ancelotti's side having already claimed a 2-1 victory at the Mestalla. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be suspended for their next two European ties following his sending-off in that win in Spain, though the French club remain favourites to progress into the last eight.
That has opened up the remarkable possibility that, should United and Arsenal – who trail Bayern Munich 3-1 going to Bavaria for the second leg – both exit the competition, then Beckham, at 37, will be the only remaining English interest in the Champions League. The game at Old Trafford remains his last involvement with Europe's elite, with the veteran keen to make up for lost time.
"It's exciting to be back and this will be a big game for PSG," he said. "We've got ourselves in a good position by winning away but that doesn't mean it will be easy here. As long as we play well and work hard, we'll be OK.
"The competition still has the big guns and it is nice to be in it. People are talking about a shift in power with Barcelona having lost their first game [2-0 against Milan], but no one should ever doubt their players even now. They have a home game to come and it doesn't matter if they're two or three down … I know what it's like to play against them when they're up against it and it's not easy."
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image: © Jan Solo