I was super nervous: Ronaldo on his second United debut
|MANCHESTER UNITED||NEWCASTLE UNITED|
|(Cristiano Ronaldo 45+2, 62, Bruno Fernandes 80, Jesse Lingard 90+2)||(Javier Manquillo 56)|
Cristiano Ronaldo admitted his “unbelievable” return to Manchester United had exceeded his expectations as the Portugal star shrugged off his nerves to score twice in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Newcastle United.
Ronaldo returned to United in a blockbuster move from Juventus last month, 12 years after leaving Old Trafford to join Real Madrid.
The 36-year-old marked his second United debut in style with a goal in each half in front of 76,000 adoring fans.
Ronaldo’s double, either side of Javier Manquillo's equaliser, was followed by goals from Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard as United moved to the top of the English Premier League, with Chelsea moving level on points with them a few hours later by beating Aston Villa 3-0.
It was an even better return than Ronaldo imagined during his anxious wait to pull on the famous United No. 7 shirt again.
“I didn’t expect to score two goals. I expect one but not two. I have to appreciate the fans and what they did to me today. I feel so proud for that,” he told BBC Sport.
“Of course I am happy to score goals, I am not going to deny that but the most important thing is the team and the team played good.
“It is unbelievable. When I started the game I was so nervous, I swear. It is normally because I did not expect that they would sing my name all game.
“I was very nervous but maybe I didn’t show but I was. The reception is incredible but I am here to win games and help the team.
“It was unbelievable moment. I was super nervous and was thinking last night that I wanted to play good and show I was still capable of helping the team.”
Away from United for over a decade as he established himself as one of the all-time greats during his spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo said he always retained a kinship with English football.
“This club is unbelievable and I am so proud. I am going to give everything to make them proud of me,” he said.
“Everyone knows the football in England is different than in any part of the world and to be honest it is the most special one. I arrived here at 18 and they treated me unbelievably and that is why I am back.”
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner lifted three EPL titles and one Champions League during his six years with United in the Alex Ferguson era.
Now playing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – his former United teammate – Ronaldo believes his team can challenge for their first English title since 2013.
Solskjaer said: “This is what Cristiano is about. This was a day for everyone to enjoy.
“Cristiano has developed into a fantastic goalscorer. He played a very good game, He dropped in, linked play well.”
United boss Solskjaer revealed Ronaldo gave a speech to his new teammates on the eve of the game and the Portugal striker said: “Everyone has to do his job.
“We have a fantastic team, a young team, with a fantastic coach but we have to build up confidence.
“The team needs to be mature if we want to win the league and the Champions League but we are in a good way and I am here to help the team.”
AIR OF ANTICIPATION
United will certainly hope the five-time Ballon d’Or winner can help end arch rivals Manchester City’s reign as champions and there was an electric air of anticipation around Old Trafford ahead of his return.
Thousands of fans gathered outside hours before kick-off to catch a glimpse of Ronaldo when he stepped off the United team bus.
Chants of “Viva Ronaldo” echoed around Old Trafford as supporters paraded in their idol’s famous No. 7 shirt.
Former United boss Alex Ferguson, whose phone call to Ronaldo played a key role in the Portugal captain returning to United, was watching from the stands.
Ronaldo’s name was cheered to the rafters before kick-off and inevitably he was destined to break Newcastle’s resistance two minutes into first half stoppage-time.
Mason Greenwood’s shot was spilled by Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and Ronaldo reacted quickest for a simple tap-in.
Running to the corner to perform his trademark "Sii" celebration, Ronaldo soaked up the acclaim from 76,000 ecstatic fans.
Ronaldo raises the roof
Newcastle threatened to spoil Ronaldo’s day when Manquillo equalised in the 56th minute with a fine finish from Allan Saint-Maximin’s pass.
But Ronaldo had other ideas and he restored United’s lead in the 62nd minute.
Luke Shaw’s through-ball sent Ronaldo racing clear on goal and he drilled a low shot under Woodman to raise the roof again.
Surfing the feel-good factor generated by Ronaldo, unbeaten United sit top of the table after a third win from their first four matches. – AFP