Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return to Manchester United with his 701st career goal to seal a comfortable Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol at Old Trafford.
As punishment for refusing to replace Tottenham eight days ago, he was suspended for last weekend’s trip to Chelsea. It looked like Ronaldo was destined not to score after manager Erik ten Hag gave him a regular role.
But with nine minutes left, the Portuguese great put his head on a Bruno Fernandes cross. Sheriff keeper Maxym Koval made a narrow save but when the ball flew out Ronaldo rushed to United’s biggest win of the season and extended their unbeaten streak to seven games in all competitions.
It was a positive end to a tough week for the five-time Ballon D’Or winner.
“He kept going and the team kept putting him in the right position,” said Ten Hag. “He kept putting himself in the right position. He didn’t give up and I think he’s done that throughout his career and in the end he got his reward for it.”
For United, he has set up a Europa League group play-off with Real Sociedad in Spain next week when the Premier League side must avenge their first-day defeat – and win by two goals in the process – to dominate the group and close a game avoid – it could put them up against European heavyweights Barcelona, Juventus or Atletico Madrid.
Diogo Dalot put the hosts on the right track with a header into Christian Eriksen’s corner post a minute before the break.
Ronaldo eventually gets it right
The problem of gauging a negative reaction to Ronaldo stems from the fact that when fans shout his famous “Siuu” it sounds very much like booing.
When the Portuguese’s name was read out just before kick-off there was certainly an unencouraging din and the best that can be said is that reactions were mixed.
The truth is that at 37, Ronaldo has struggled to make an impact this season.
His best chance of the first half came when Bruno Fernandes headed him into the box. Normally the backstab finish would have found the bottom corner. This time it went straight to goalkeeper Koval.
There was a gasp of anticipation early in the second half as Ronaldo, as he had done so many times in his career, stepped to the left to make room for a shot from the edge of the field.
The whole stadium was waiting for the net to swell. Instead, the shot flew away, much to Ronaldo’s utter disbelief. He soon found the net with a volley that was rightly ruled offside. Within seconds, a supporting chant of “Viva Ronaldo” rolled across the floor.
It marked a turning point from the stadium. Ronaldo’s goal caused jubilation even though the game was won. And the noise coming from the tunnel area as he made his way to the dressing room after the final whistle was very positive.
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Post time: Oct-28-2022