Soccer

Ronaldo showed how he can make United title winners

Cristiano Ronaldo showed with his magnetism, movement and mentality how he could make Manchester United title winners with a triumphant return performance

  • Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in his first game since returning to Man United
  • The 36-year-old scored his side’s first two goals as they beat Newcastle 4-1 
  • Bruno Fernandes also scored which shows he creates space for his team-mates
  • Sportsmail analyses the Portuguese icon’s second coming at Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo’s return could not have gone much better and it offered an insight into what to expect as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tries to launch a tilt at the title.

THE MAGNETISM

Playing as a central striker, Ronaldo came deep to link play time and again. The average positions of the returning hero and his countryman Bruno Fernandes ended up overlapping midway inside the Newcastle half. Often they took up similar spaces — but that will not worry Solskjaer, who said ‘good players can always work together’ and that they ‘will work to develop that partnership’.

The pair occupying those central areas created space out wide. Newcastle’s defenders were inevitably drawn to Ronaldo like moths to a flame and the wide players can benefit.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice on his second Man United debut – a 4-1 win over Newcastle

Defenders are drawn to Ronaldo and that can create space for his other United team-mates

The majority of Ronaldo’s 45 passes were completed in the left-hand inside channel. Fernandes, meanwhile, had a broader range. While there might have been fears of them treading on each other’s toes, the duo performed different jobs perfectly in tandem.

THE MOVEMENT

Just before United opened the scoring, there were a couple of moments that showed why United will have something extra in the final third with Ronaldo.

Raphael Varane had flicked a corner in a vague area towards the back post. It could have landed anywhere but Ronaldo followed the header right across the six-yard box, ready to meet any rebound. He was the only man on the move, alive to a potential second ball.

Ronaldo was also instrumental in a Jadon Sancho chance with the game still goalless, his angled run dragging a defender with him and allowing Fernandes to fashion a chance for the winger cutting inside. Sancho could have done better on that occasion.

That was before his key involvements either side of Newcastle’s equaliser. Both goals showed off the explosion for which Ronaldo is renowned. Again, he was the only man alert to a possible Freddie Woodman error when tapping in the first. Ronaldo never stood still as Mason Greenwood shaped to cross and then eventually shot. And then he timed his top speed of 20.2mph well to race through and notch the second.

Those bits of play owe much to the work Rene Meulensteen did during Ronaldo’s first spell in England, as United moulded him into a goal machine.

The Portgueuse forward’s brilliant movement was on display for both of his two goals 

THE MENTALITY

‘Manchester United need to be where they deserve to be,’ Ronaldo said. ‘We have a fantastic, young team. But we need to be mature if we want to win the Premier League and Champions League. I am here to help.’

Solskjaer revealed Ronaldo had said a few strong words to the team at the Lowry Hotel last week and it is not hard to imagine one of the game’s true greats instilling higher standards around Carrington.

United did not have the game all their own way on Saturday. It was striking to watch Ronaldo conceal any frustration in those spells.

That screening of emotions, you imagine, will not last.

Ronaldo has a winning mentality and that should rub off on his United team-mates


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