Bruno Fernandes makes Cristiano Ronaldo feel clear as Man Utd fly out to Spain

Manchester United face Atletico Madrid in Spain in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash on Wednesday night, with Cristiano Ronaldo facing opponents he has destroyed in the competition previously

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Fernandes talks up unity in Man Utd squad

Cristiano Ronaldo can sniff Champions League glory once again, according to Manchester United teammate and compatriot Bruno Fernandes.

Ronaldo remains the ultimate Champions League icon, having lifted the trophy five times, made the most appearances -181 – and scored the most goals -140 – in the competition’s history.

United, who face Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid tonight in the first leg of their last 16 tie, may not be among the favorites to go all the way in Europe’s elite club competition this season.

Indeed, since reaching the final in 2011, United have won just two of 12 Champions League knockout games, which shows the extent of their decline in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

But with Ronaldo in their ranks and with his track record of delivering when it gets to the Champions League knockout stage, United, their players and fans know anything is possible.

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“Cristiano has won this competition many times,” said Fernandes. “Everyone knows in this competition he has that smell for the goal, that smell for doing different things.

“In the same way we have Rapha [Raphael Varane]who has won the Champions League four times.

“Sometimes it’s about someone who has more experience, but sometimes it’s about someone doing it for the first time, because they’re hungry to do something well.

“They want to show it. When Cristiano won the first one, he was probably not the most influential player, there were others who had more experience, but he helped the team anyway.

“It’s all about everyone sticking together, doing the same things, having the same focus.

“Having players that can decide games for us at any moment is always helpful. If that’s Cristiano or another one, the most important thing is winning the game and going through.”

As former Real Madrid players, Ronaldo and Varane can expect a particularly hostile welcome from the Atletico fans tonight at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

United interim boss Ralf Rangnick knows all of his players must be mentally strong to cope with what awaits them and ensure they have a decent result to take back to Old Trafford.

“Mentally, we need to be prepared for an emotional, hostile atmosphere in the stadium,” said Rangnick.

“Some of the players will not be received with the red carpet, but we have the experience and the talent of the younger players.”

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Rangnick has admitted the club’s priority this season is to secure fourth spot in the Premier League, to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

None of United’s top-four rivals – West Ham, Tottenham, Arsenal and Wolves – are involved in Europe and can focus all their energy and efforts on the Premier League run-in.

Winning the Champions League would also see United qualify for it next season, but Rangnick denied their involvement this season could impact on their top-four hopes.

“No, the Champions League can never be a distraction, that’s why teams are desperate to qualify for it,” said Rangnick.

“How can it be a distraction? This is why we’re working for this club – we want to play in the Champions League and are playing against one of the best teams in Europe.

“If you win the Champions League you can qualify for it the following season, but in order to do that we have to play two top games against Atletico and at the end of those two games, proceed to the next round.

“In order to do that we have to show we are up for that and beat Atletico. If we do that this will give us another boost, raise the players” confidence and we’ll see what happens.”

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