Cristiano Ronaldo given hero’s welcome by Portugal fans as ex-Man Utd ace begins Qatar World Cup as free agent

THE SPECIAL RON CRISTIANO RONALDO ran out to a huge roar from the Portuguese fans ahead of his first game as a free agent.

The mega star, 37, left Manchester United earlier this week by mutual consent after his bombshell Talk TV interview with Piers Morgan where he criticised the running of the club.

Cristiano Ronaldo warms up ahead of his side’s clash with Ghana.
Ronaldo, 37, claps the travelling Portuguese faithful.
Shockwaves were felt around the football world as a result – and Ronaldo’s situation has dominated Portugal’s build-up to the World Cup.

Now it is back to the football as captain Ronaldo leads his side against Ghana in their opening game in Qatar.

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Ronnie looked pumped up as he came out to warm up with his team-mates to a massive roar.

There was another big cheer from his adoring fans when he applauded them, as well as when both his name and famous “Siuuu” celebration were announced on the loud speaker.

It is amazing to think that, after 117 goals in 191 caps for his country, and a shedload more in his outrageously prolific club career, he may still have something to prove.

But this is one of the ultimate winners in the game who will be desperate to show he still has what it takes on the biggest stage.

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After his Man United exit was confirmed, Ronaldo skipped the usual pre-match media duties normally required of a team captain yesterday.

His former Red Devils team-mate Bruno Fernandes stepped in for him – addressing the potentially awkward situation.

Fernandes, 28, said: “It was good for me while it lasted. Now Cristiano has taken a different decision for his career and his family and we have to respect that.

“I haven’t discussed the topic with Cris. We’re all focused on the national team and the World Cup.

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“I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to pick a side. It was a dream come true to play with Cristiano [at United] but nothing lasts forever.

“We know what the World Cup means to Cristiano and his focus has always been there. He didn’t tell me about his decision.

“It’s a personal decision and it concerns him and his family. We haven’t talked about it.

“Everyone here is focused on the goal, the national team and the World Cup.”

Both were named in Fernando Santos’ starting line-up for their Group H opener against Ghana.

Ronaldo warms up with Bernardo Silva.

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