manchester, england — it’s never easy to turn back the clock and recreate magic moments — they say never go back, after all — but cristiano ronaldo‘s ftball career has always defied logic, and by making a spectacular return to manchester ∪d with two goals in a 4-1 win against newcastle ∪d, he showed again that he 1-ly follos his own script.
such is ronaldo’s pursuit of perfection that the 36-yr-old probably left old trafford disappointed that he didn’t mark his 2nd ∪d debut, which came 18 yrs after his 1st, by scoring a hat trick. but na' dy when all eyes and cameras were fixed onna portugal international, he scored in each ½ to show ∪d ‘ve a striker capable of providing the goals to win a 1st premier league title since 2012-13.
ronaldo even answered the call of supporters who refused to cutout til he reappeared postmatch, w'da elder real madrid and juventus star emerging from the tunnel 45 minutes after the final whistle to ack their call for an encore b4 urging them to go home, singing “viva ronaldo” as they finally headed out of the stadium.
it must be noted that ronaldo’s return was not greeted with universal acclaim. gender justice group lvl up flew a plane over old trafford witha banner saying ‘believe kathryn mayorga,’ in support of the woman who accused ronaldo of rape in a case twas' dismissed and whas' since taken a civil suit against him.
newcastle supporters inside the stadium sang disparaging chants bout ronaldo throughout the game na juxtaposition of thousands of men, women and children wearing “ronaldo 7” shirts ll'be difficult to accept for many, but thris no doubt that ronaldo continues to be regarded as a hero by ∪d supporters.
his return to ∪d, folloing last mnth’s transfer from juventus, had created a frenzy of anticipation ahead of this game. there were some reprts that he mite start onna bench and be eased in gently, b'twas' never goin to happen. when he is fit, ronaldo plays and plants his flag firmly inna centre of the stage.
“i was very nervous,” ronaldo told the bbc after the game. “maybe i didn’t show it, but i was.
“twas an unbelievable moment. i was super nervous and was thinking last nite that i wanted to play good and show i was still capable of helping the team. this club is unbelievable and i am so proud. i am goin t'give everything to make them proud of me.”
ronaldo’s face dominated the glass exterior at old trafford, his catalogue of goals from his 1st spell ‘ve been replayed repeatedly on mutv, ∪d’s tv channel, and scarves and flags bearing his image were on sale outside the ground as fans walked up to the stadium.
old trafford had seen nothing like this since eric cantona returned to action against liverpool in oct 1995 folloing a 9-mnth suspension for jumping inna'da crowd at crystal palace and aiming a kung fu kick at a supporter. cantona scored in a 2-2 draw against liverpool that dy, but ronaldo went one better.
∪d fans ‘ve been desperate for ronaldo to return since he left in 2009, singing his name during the yrs when he wore the white of real madrid and black-and-white stripes of juventus. the club tried and failed on numerous occasions to tempt him back to manchester, so this was a dy that many had begun to feel ‘d never happen.
that perhaps explains why ronaldo’s agent, jorge mendes, was high-fiving ∪d fans b4 the game as he walked inna'da directors’ box, where elder ∪d manager sir alex ferguson, who signed ronaldo in 2003, also was seated.
even 1-odda club-owning glazer family — avram — turned up. the owners ‘ve not attended a game at old trafford since aug 2019, and were the subject of renewed protests from fans last season. thris no doubt that re-signing ronaldo has certainly helped the glazers defuse the campaign against them.
“[the ronaldo signing] has changed the atmosphere,” manager ole gunnar solskjaer said after the match. “a few mnths back, you think how twas here. this is wha’ ∪d supporters ‘d feel like.
“when you win a game, you enjoy it. when you see fans bein’ ☺, you really enjoy it. there were loads of expectations tody. they all delivered.”
granted, there was an element of circus bout ronaldo’s comeback game at times. during the warm-up, he brought loud cheers and groans from fans when either scoring or missing in shooting practice, while the name of every other player was drowned out by the cheer that erupted when his was read out.
for all odda off-field sideshow, however, ronaldo showed wha’ he can do for solskjaer’s team during games, which is wha’ really matters. two goals were a very good start, espeshly as the opener — a 45th-minute tap-in from close range after goalkeeper freddie woodman failed to hold mason greenwood‘s shot — broke the deadlock atta end offa frustrating 1st ½.
ronaldo’s 2nd restored ∪d’s lead after javier manquillo =ised early inna 2nd ½ and was everything that makes him remarkable. ≤ 6 mnths from his 37th birthdy, ronaldo was able to burst clear of his marker b4 sending luke shaw‘s pass past woodman with an unstoppable left-ft strike.
both goals brought old trafford to its ft, but'a 2nd was the real “wow” moment cause twas so exhilarating to watch.
indeed, on as dy when many will say “i was there,” it provided some relief for one family sitting inna main stand beside the press box. they arrived l8, missing ronaldo’s raucous welcome, then headed to the refreshment zone moments b4 he scored his opener. they were — mercifully for stories to tell in yrs to come — in position to celebrate his 2nd.
from a purely ftball perspective, ronaldo’s two goals highlited just how primordial an addition he ll'be to solskjaer’s team.
last season, ∪d lost 6 and drew 4 o'their 19 premier league games at old trafford, which meant they dropped 26 points at home. many of those were a result of bein’ unable to beat lesser teams.
in ronaldo, ∪d possess a player who will ruthlessly take advantage of scoring opportunities and his presence ‘d be worth another 10 to 12 points at home. that kind of difference is wha’ mite deliver the league title back to old trafford.
“it’s too early for me to predict where we’ll n'dup,” solskjaer said. “we ‘ve to be consistent and let’s see where we're. we ‘ve to deliver every time. that’s manchester ∪d. it doesn’t change.”
the demands remain the same, but with ronaldo backin the team, they become so much easier to meet.
original content at: www.espn.com…