David Beckham says Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United for the first time since his transfer to Real Madrid will be a 'great occasion', and he expects the Portuguese to thrive in the situation.

Ronaldo left Old Trafford the Santiago Bernabeu in a world record transfer during the summer of 2009, and has yet to face his former club at the Theatre of Dreams since his departure.

The 28-year-old met Manchester United for the first time as a Real Madrid player during the first leg of their Champions League last 16 encounter, scoring a header to cancel out the opener from Danny Welbeck.

Real Madrid arrive at Old Trafford knowing they have to score to stand any chance of progressing to the last eight of the competition, and Beckham senses Ronaldo's return will make it a famous night in Manchester.

"It will be an exciting game, and a special night for Cristiano going back to Manchester," Beckham said, as reported by Goal.com

"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 Bernabeu. It will be a great game to watch. They are two great teams with great players, so it's difficult to call."

Ronaldo, meanwhile, continues to be linked with a summer move back to Manchester United, with reports on Thursday claiming the club are exploring the possibility of re-signing the Portugal captain.

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