A closer look at Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo made his second debut for Manchester United in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Newcastle in the Premier League. Here, the PA news agency looks at how the Portuguese fared.

Impact

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Ronaldo warming up before kick-off.

The occasion was all about Ronaldo as he made his return to the United side after a 12-year absence. His presence certainly energised the crowd and, as he has done throughout his glittering career, he lived up to the billing and delivered with two goals. At times United’s play was laboured but he showed, as expected, that he can raise the level.

On the ball

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Ronaldo takes on the Newcastle defence.

Ronaldo’s opportunities on the ball were perhaps fewer than he would have liked but that did not prevent him making telling contributions. There were a couple of miscues early on but a trademark dribble into the box and shot into the side-netting in the first half underlined his threat. Most of his touches brought a sense of anticipation even though a lot of them were a case of doing the simple things right. When the chance came to run at defenders he looked dangerous and, although Newcastle quelled some of his attacks, they could not completely contain him.

Team play

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Goal! Ronaldo hits his first of the game.

The Portuguese took up the central attacking position as soon as the game kicked off but he often dropped deep to get involved in build-up play or moved out wide to increase attacking options. There were a lot of one-touch passes as he tried to speed up United’s movement and he usually got himself into the right areas whenever the ball was to be delivered into the box. Naturally he was in the right place at the right time to tap in the opening goal from a rebound after Freddie Woodman parried a Mason Greenwood shot.

Set-pieces

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
The new signing had little chance to show off his dead ball skills.

There had been some conjecture over whether Ronaldo would get the chance to take free-kicks and penalties and that issue is still to be resolved after United were awarded no set-pieces in dangerous areas on this occasion.

Finishing

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Double trouble for Newcastle as Ronaldo gets his second.

Ronaldo provided a lot of goal threat, firing wide early on and having another couple of efforts blocked. Admittedly his first goal was a simple finish and Woodman might be disappointed to have allowed his second past him but, as usual, he made his own luck.

Overall impression

Manchester United v Newcastle United – Premier League – Old Trafford
Glad you’re back! Ronaldo celebrates with fellow goal-scorer Jesse Lingard.

It would be a stretch to say Ronaldo dominated the game if focusing purely on the action and, goals aside, his performance might have been little to get excited about. Yet his name was certainly still written large all over this game and he delivered when it mattered. His brace was enough to justify the hype after an extraordinary build-up to this ‘homecoming’ and United will hope there is plenty more to come.