Two-goal Cristiano Ronaldo: A statement of intent from the most remarkable of athletes

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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

That is the way to announce your return.

Was there ever any doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo would deliver on his second-coming at Manchester United?

These are early days and he will come up against much tougher opposition than a Newcastle that look doomed – but this was a statement of intent from the most remarkable of athletes.

This was not Ronaldo of old.

The twisting of runs the flashing of feet to leave defenders for dead. That is not his game anymore.

Nowadays he is a ruthless finisher – a collector of stats. And he is precisely what this United team needed.

His opening goal in first-half stoppage time was far from a classic. It was nothing like the type of strike that made him such an icon in these parts in his first time at the club.

But it was the type of goal that not enough United players want to score these days.

The type of goal Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to convince Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to add to their game – rather than the screamers that Ronaldo once trademarked.

Gambling in the box, it was notable that he was the only red shirt following in Mason Greenwood’s speculative effort from the edge of the area.

It paid off with Freddie Woodman spilling the ball, allowing Ronaldo to tap in.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

If the sight of him padding his numbers with that type of strike rubs off on Rashford, Martial and Greenwood then United’s ‘goals for’ column will improve significantly for more reasons than just those directly contributed by Ronaldo.

The current generation of United forwards want to be like Ronaldo of old. They could also do with being a bit more like Ronaldo of now.

It will be fascinating to see the evolution of the Portugal international after heading to the, self-branded, most demanding league in world football.

On this evidence, he will plunder English defences in the manner he did in Spain and Italy before.

He did not have to be at his best here – but was still far too good for Newcastle.

At times he was frustrated with the quality of United’s service – Aaron Wan-Bissaka was particularly guilty of failing to find him often enough.

Jadon Sancho on the opposite side looked as bright as he has yet in the red of United, but his dribbles had no end product on too many occasions.

But this was Ronaldo after just a handful of days with his new team-mates. They will learn how to exploit his, albeit more conservative, movement. He will demand it.

On the eve of this game he gave an impromptu speech to the rest of the squad at the team hotel to underline the influence he is already having at the club.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

He will fashion United into an outfit that will get the best out of him – and that will perhaps provide them with their best chance post-Sir Alex Ferguson of delivering a Premier League title.

He is a supreme winner – and there was never any danger of his second United debut ending without the headline he wanted.

Sure Newcastle threatened to spoil the party – and the number of times they burst beyond United’s midfield was evidence of the fragilities that remain. But when Javier Maquillo equalised shortly after half time, it was a matter of when, not if, Ronaldo struck again.

He duly obliged after 62 minutes – Luke Shaw playing him in on the left of the box.

Again, it wasn’t a screamer, it was just a ruthless finish through the legs of Woodman.

Two shots on target, two goals. Conclusive evidence of his ruthlessness.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Even approaching his late 30s, he is as deadly a centre forward as there is operating anywhere in the world.

One can only imagine the numbers he would have racked up had Manchester City been successful in signing him.

He might not manage the same at United, but his goals could prove the difference in tipping the balance in his title race.

On Saturday they were enough to help take Solskjaer’s side to the top of the table.

When it comes to this particular athlete, who would doubt his ability to keep them there?

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