Arsène Wenger has revealed how close he came to signing Cristiano Ronaldo and suggested with some mischief that the player himself ought to tell the story of how he almost chose Arsenal over Manchester United.

“I knew about him, yes,” said Wenger. “We were very close (to signing him). Manchester United had a partnership with Sporting Lisbon when (the assistant manager) Carlos Queiroz came in – that made the difference.

One day I will tell you more about the story and you will be surprised. You will have to ask him (Ronaldo) how close it was. We had him here. He was here much earlier. He could tell you that if he wants.”

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Cristiano Ronaldo returned in red to haunt former club Sporting Lisbon and ensure Manchester United made a winning start to their latest Champions League quest with a 1-0 victory.

Ronaldo spent seven years wearing Sporting green before he left for Old Trafford in 2003 with a £12.2million price tag and became a megastar.

But the brilliant Portugal winger had warned there would be no old pals act at the Jose Alvalade Stadium, the ground on which he first came to Sir Alex Ferguson’s attention in a friendly meeting between the teams four years ago.

And Ronaldo matched his words with deeds as he arrived with perfect timing to finish off Wes Brown’s low cross and provide the Red Devils with only their third Champions League away win in 15 encounters.

Having refused to state yesterday whether he would celebrate any goal, Ronaldo restricted himself to a low, double-fisted salute before an almost apologetic bow to the home supporters, who offered the winger a standing ovation when he was replaced by Carlos Tevez four minutes from time.

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Cristiano Ronaldo said that the new United signings of Anderson and Nani will make an instant impact in the Premiership.

Manchester United have agreed to pay £17million to Porto for Anderson, 19, while Nani, 20, is a £14m capture from Sporting Lisbon, Ronaldo’s former club.

Nani and Anderson have both agreed five-year United deals, which will earn each player £26,000 a week as they bid to follow Ronaldo to stardom.

And Ronaldo, 22, is convinced the young guns will justify their price tags by taking the champions up another level.

He said: “I can only say that United will be stronger because they have signed two great players.

“Anderson and Nani are phenomenons and the side will be improved a lot by their participation.”

He added: “I’m really happy that I will have Nani and Anderson as team-mates. They will be very welcome at Manchester United.”

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