Steve Bruce has challenged Newcastle to gatecrash Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming party as Manchester United prepare to welcome back their former superstar.
The 36-year-old’s second debut at Old Trafford on Saturday will be the focus of world football this weekend and Bruce’s Magpies have been cast in a supporting role.
However, the former United defender is hoping his players can spoil the former Real Madrid and Juventus star’s big afternoon.
Bruce said: “Listen, it’s always going to be tough and obviously the added spice of Ronaldo coming back has added to it.
“But make no mistake, they’ve got quality players all over the pitch, so whenever you go to Old Trafford, the one thing you’re going to have to do is enjoy the challenge of playing against one of the big, big teams of this country and relish the opportunity to go and see if we can spoil the party a bit.
“That’s the big challenge to us all, of course, the ability for all of us to enjoy upsetting the apple cart and going and making it as difficult an afternoon as we possibly can for Ronaldo or Manchester United or the rest of them.
“They’ve got quality players all over the pitch and it’s one of those where you should really, really relish the challenge that’s coming and I hope we respond to it and really have a good go at it.”
United’s recapture of Ronaldo has been the talk of football since news of their sensational swoop emerged a fortnight ago and Bruce is in little doubt as to what he will bring to the mix.
He said: “You’re not going to be voted the best player in the world for… him and (Lionel) Messi have dominated that stage now for the last 15 years, is it?
“He’s been quite a remarkable player, how he’s looked after himself. The goals he’s scored at every club he’s played for is quite remarkable.
“That, quite rightly in my opinion, makes him the best player in the world. It’s a terrific signing by Manchester United.
“It’s quite an incredible story of him going back and I’m sure they could have sold out Old Trafford 10 times over if they wished. It’s been quite remarkable.”
Ronaldo, who won three Premier Leagues and the Champions League during a six-year spell at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, has insisted he has not come back for “a vacation” and Bruce is convinced he and fellow summer signings Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho make the club genuine title contenders this season.
He said: “They were second last year and have brought in three quality players, so they’ve got to be there or thereabouts. That’s what the demands of Manchester United are, they’ve got to be in and around it, and they hope that they can have a good run at it.
“It will be difficult of course, with City and Chelsea and the strength of a lot of teams, but they’ve given themselves a hell of an opportunity.”