Man Utd 4 Newcastle 1: Cristiano Ronaldo scores twice in dream second debut to fire club top of Premier League table
THERE had been plenty of hype to justify this past fortnight, but Cristiano Ronaldo did not take long to prove his substance yet again.
Manchester United’s homecoming Hollywood signing showed an Oscar-winning sense of timing with a poacher’s double to secure victory on his second Red Devils debut.
At the age of 36, Ronaldo is primarily a great goalscorer rather than the scorer of great goals they used to know and love before his departure 12 years ago.
And, thanks to two goalkeeping blunders by Newcastle keeper Freddie Woodman, Ronaldo was handed a dream start – without even having to truly light up his old playground.
Javier Manquillo equalised for Newcastle between Ronaldo’s double but Bruno Fernandes netted a peachy long-ranger and Jesse Lingard a late fourth to ensure Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men finished the 90 minutes on top of the Premier League.
Manchester had been in a state of excitable, mobbed, pre-Covid mayhem and Old Trafford itself was also in throwback mode – there probably hadn’t been this much excitement about the place since Sir Alex Ferguson reached for his blowpipe and slippers back in 2013.
And why not? It was certainly the first time the Premier League has ever boasted a genuine contender for the title of football’s GOAT.
Ronaldo had won one Champions League and Ballon D’Or before his exit in 2009 but he arrived back with five of each.
The cries of ‘Viva Ronaldo!’ were belted out long and hard all over the city.
But nine minutes in, Fernandes played a crossfield ball, Ciaran Clark failed to clear with a header, and Ronaldo scuffed his shot and fell on his backside, to gleeful cries of ‘what the f***ing hell was that?’ from the Toon Army.
Sancho performed some old-school Ronaldo stepovers and fed the man himself, who fired into the side-netting.
Raphael Varane headed wide from a Luke Shaw corner and Fernandes opted for a Beckhamesque 50-yarder which dropped just over the bar.
Yet with Allan Saint-Maximin causing nuisance, Newcastle had their moments – and they might have take the lead courtesy of a poor defensive throw-in from Shaw, with Joe Willock shooting widely when he ought to have centred.
Nemanja Matic led a rapid break and fed Ronaldo, whose shot was blocked by Jamaal Lascelles.
Yet in first-half injury time, Ronaldo’s moment arrived – a classic poacher’s effort, snaffling the rebound after a Mason Greenwood shot was horribly spilled by Woodman.
Newcastle began the second half at full pelt and they soon netted a deserved equaliser, Miguel Almiron going on a skipping run and squaring for St Maximin, who slipped a pass in for Javier Manquillo to drill inside the far post.
With Solskjaer’s men seemingly wobbling, Paul Pogba was booked harshly after what looked like an inadvertent foul on Sean Longstaff.
But then Shaw rumbled forward and released Ronaldo whose shot went straight through Woodman – the Newcastle keeper doing more than of the opposition players to make Ronaldo’s day special.
The home side were not home and hosed just yet – Joelinton beat Varane and forced a decent save from David De Gea.
But ten minutes from time, a truly special strike from a Portuguese – just not that one – as Fernandes netted with a dipping, swerving 25-yarder that his international team-mate would have been proud of.
Then, in the dying moments, a beauty to wrap things up – Pogba’s pass dummied by Martial and Lingard supplying a classy finish.