The much-heralded return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United kicked off on the best possible note. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s prematch press conference earlier confirmed that the Portuguese would certainly play a role in their match against Newcastle, the extent of the role he eventually played would be on the lips of all and sundry that either witnessed it in the fully packed Old Trafford stadium or watched it at the comfort of their homes, pubs or wherever else. Simply put, it was like he never left.
Steve Bruce had set up his team to play five men at the back and this system was effective in stifling not just the threat of Ronaldo’s prowess in the air, but the United attack in general. In fact, throughout the first half, Manchester United only produced a couple of half-chances at best and Newcastle were a constant threat on the counterattack. However, on the stroke of halftime, Mason Greenwood sent a tame shot towards the path of Freddie Woodman, Woodman spilled the ball, Ronaldo scored. To put this goal into proper context, 99 times out of a 100, the goalkeeper saves that shot with ease, and even when he does not, only a handful of players possess the alertness and reflex to anticipate that odd solitary time out of the 100 and Cristiano Ronaldo once again proved why he scores so many and why he is regarded by many as the greatest goal scorer of all time.
His second goal just five minutes after Newcastle equalized through the most unlikely of sources in Javier Manquillo was from a quick counterattack. Luke Shaw drove with the ball from the Manchester United half into the Newcastle half and released Ronaldo who took a touch before releasing a left-footed effort through the legs of the helpless Woodman.
Manchester United went on to win 4 – 1, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a worldie and Jesse Lingard finishing off a beautiful team move, but the name on everyone’s lips was Ronaldo.
Many might argue that it was not necessarily his greatest individual performance, or that some other player outperformed him over the weekend, but my argument is not many can deliver on an occasion as such and in the manner that he did. Cristiano Ronaldo rolled back the years with a brace at Old Trafford and we still have goosebumps from watching that performance.