Man Utd 4-1 Newcastle: Cristiano Ronaldo scores twice on Old Trafford return to take his team top of the table
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a dramatic double to help Manchester United to a 4-1 win over Newcastle on his extraordinary Old Trafford return.
The 36-year-old forward, back in United red for the first time since leaving in 2009, opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time, much to the joy of an expectant home crowd.
And while former Liverpool player Javier Manquillo scored a fine equaliser on the counter-attack, Ronaldo was not to be denied, restoring the lead in front of the Stretford End.
“It was an unbelievable moment,” said the Portuguese superstar. “I was nervous and I was thinking last night what I wanted – to play well, to show that I’m still capable to help the team. But it’s unbelievable, I feel so proud and I’m going to give everything to make them proud of me.”
Bruno Fernandes’s stunning strike from distance followed by Jesse Lingard’s late effort sealed the victory that takes United to the top of the Premier League table and – with Ronaldo – dreaming of staying there.
“This is what Man United is about, this is what Cristiano is about and this was a day for everyone to enjoy,” added United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
How Ronaldo won it against Newcastle
The anticipation made for a frenzied atmosphere long before kick-off and it was no surprise that the early opportunities fell to the returning forward as the home side pushed hard.
Ronaldo could not quite bring down one opportunity and then dragged another wide of the near post to the delight of the Newcastle supporters at that end of Old Trafford.
The pressure was constant in those opening minutes, the noise reverberating around the ground, but Steve Bruce’s side mustered enough counter-attacks to keep it interesting.
Indeed, they stifled Manchester United for much of the first half, restricting them to headers from corners – Raphael Varane directing one effort just wide – and long shots.
Paul Pogba and Fernandes tried to provide the prompting with Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood looking a little subdued as they searched for space.
That was until Greenwood cut inside from the left and fired off a hopeful shot that Freddie Woodman should have dealt with only for the goalkeeper to spill the ball.
There was Ronaldo, well onside and reacting quicker than the defenders, to stab the ball into the net and treat his adoring crowd to that trademark goal celebration.
Woodman had felt the ire of the crowd from very early on as he delayed his kicks but that changed the mood, the joy mixed with relief. It did not last long though.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s selection was the big news at Old Trafford as he took the place in attack vacated by Daniel James. Nemanja Matic was recalled to the team in midfield.
The loss of Callum Wilson to injury forced Steve Bruce to turn to Joelinton in attack, while Isaac Hayden dropped into the back line with Federico Fernandez reverting to the bench.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side continuing to be restricted to crosses and long shots against Newcastle’s deep defence, the danger of the counter-attack never went away.
The impressive Miguel Almiron was the architect of the equaliser, breaking free in the left channel before finding Allan Saint-Maximin who tapped the ball onto Manquillo.
The wing-back had covered the length of the pitch to provide the overlapping run and found the finish to match his endeavour. Old Trafford was stunned. The away fans jubilant.
There were some groans from the crowd at that point. Enter Ronaldo.
When Luke Shaw ran at the Newcastle defence, he was able to prod the ball into the path of the veteran as he raced towards the Stretford End in that favoured left channel.
The left-footed shot was not perfectly struck but it was on target. Woodman again might have done better it. No matter. This was Ronaldo’s moment. Another Ronaldo moment.
This was not a good team performance by Manchester United, the goals from the returning star masking a less than fluid effort, and David de Gea still had work to do at the other end.
But Fernandes capped the afternoon with the best strike of the game, capitalising with a long-range effort as the Newcastle defence backed off him. And when Lingard finished off an excellent team move in stoppage time, it was a reminder that this club will always be about more than one man.
But this was Ronaldo’s day. He was, as so many times before, the difference-maker.
Ronaldo returns: The reaction
Cristiano Ronaldo said he was extremely nervous on his Manchester Utd return against Newcastle and that he was amazed by the reception of the Old Trafford fans.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “This is what Man United is about, this is what Cristiano is about and this was a day for everyone to enjoy.”
Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce: “If there’s a genuine superstar among everybody, then he is. What he’s done and what he’s achieved, and the witnessing of it today, has been something else.”
Sky Sports’ Paul Merson: “His movement was absolutely phenomenal. The first goal was a mistake by the goalie but there’s only one person following up – he’s the one who goes ‘he’s going to spill this’ and he taps it in…
“He’s not going to close full-backs down, and he played a lot of what I would call wall passes where he just came and kept it ticking over, but his movement was phenomenal. I said he’s not the same player – he’s not the same player, but if you put the ball in the box or you look up and find time on the ball his movement is absolutely scary. I thought Cavani’s was good, but his is on another planet.”
Manchester United travel to play Young Boys in the Champions League on Tuesday evening before going away to West Ham in the Premier League next Sunday, live on Sky Sports.