United v Real No, it's Ronaldo against Van Persie, insists legend Van Nistelrooy
16:57 GMT, 8 February 2013
17:25 GMT, 8 February 2013
Ruud van Nistelrooy believes the respective performances of Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to the outcome of the Champions League last-16 showdown between his former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Van Nistelrooy, who spent five years at United before moving to Madrid in 2006 for a four-year spell at the Bernabeu, finds it impossible to pick a favourite between the two European superpowers and believes the tie will be settled by the 'smallest details'.
To that end he has singled out United hitman Van Persie and Madrid's former Old Trafford forward Ronaldo as the deciding factors.
Star men: Cristiano Ronaldo (left) or Robin van Persie could decide the Champions League tie
'For me the difference will be the form of Cristiano and Van Persie. I think that one of these two players will make the difference,' Van Nistelrooy told Marca.
'Both teams are doing very well. I think Madrid have improved a lot in recent weeks. Taking away the Granada game (1-0 loss) I see a strong team, who played very well against Barca and who show their best in the big games.
'I think the tie will be decided by the smallest details.'
Split loyalty Ruud van Nistelrooy left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2006
What about me Wayne Rooney, who scored for England this week, has found a run of form
The 36-year-old Dutchman feels Madrid, who are looking for a record 10th European Cup crown, boast more quality than Sir Alex Ferguson's side but has warned the Spanish giants that United's 'lethal' strikeforce of Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will take some stopping.
'I think they (Madrid) have more quality on the pitch. But United win and win every week. They trail 2-0 and fight back, they go 1-0 up and control the game.
'United are very much a team. They defend all together and then play for Van Persie and Rooney.
'Madrid, due to injuries, have not been able to create such a solid group and be able to repeat the same team every week.
'Pepe and Marcelo have been injured, (Gonzalo) Higuain and (Karim) Benzema haven't been doing well, (Angel) Di Maria doesn't always play…The injury to Iker (Casillas) doesn't help either because he's always there and very experienced.
Clinical: Ronaldo has an incredible scoring record for Real Madrid, who he joined for 82million from Manchester United
The difference: Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini believe the addition of Van Persie has propelled United to the top
'It will be a very interesting game.'
Asked what Madrid need to fear, Van Nistelrooy said: 'United don't need many chances to score. Give one to Van Persie and Rooney and it's going in. They don't miss. And the problem is that they always create something.
'They are a lethal pair.'
The first leg takes place at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Returning hero: Ronaldo will play against his former club for the first time since leaving in 2009