Why Ronaldo is the story the world needs: Neil Humphreys
Ronaldo shows the best of human endeavour on difficult date, with second-debut double for United
Today, Manchester United supporters will believe that Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals on his second club debut for them.
He didn't. He scored them for all of us.
Maybe he didn't score for Liverpool supporters. Some things must never change and rightfully so.
But there was a moment - an astonishing moment of rip-roaring magnificence - where even United's rivals might have grudgingly acknowledged a feeling of transcendence.
It was Ronaldo's second goal. There was something intangibly special about that second goal, forcing me to break two unwritten rules.
First, I fist-pumped the air, which was entirely unexpected. I rarely celebrate goals in a professional context.
And second, I just used the first-person pronoun "I" in this column, something that is usually avoided. This column shouldn't be about me.
But the goal was about me. The goal was about me and you and the millions of others swept along on Ronaldo's magic carpet ride.
His two goals in United's 4-1 victory against Newcastle United on Saturday was the sporting fairy-tale we needed - another would soon follow - as global emotions were practically reset and restarted.
Ronaldo scored his double on 9/11. Of course he did.
Teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu then won the US Open on 9/11, in New York, representing a new generation, a new day, as if the karmic gods felt that the symbolism wasn't quite obvious enough and needed underlining.
A day spent watching the worst of humanity, over and over again, on endless news cycles never dulled the impact nor diminished the sense that some people are utterly determined to do the worst with their time here.
And then Ronaldo popped up, not once, but twice, to remind us of what human excellence pushed to the nth degree looks like, what a relentlessly positive mind and body can achieve in a lifespan.
It was, quite literally, night and day.
Ronaldo's triumphant return was hardly a panacea for the suffering witnessed throughout the 20th anniversary of 9/11 - and no one is pretending otherwise - but the common theme of the day was uncertainty.
The world has never been the same since 9/11. And it hasn't. Uncertainty reigns. Terror threats, geopolitical upheaval, a pandemic and climate change are just a few items on the smorgasbord of depressing tidbits that we must contend with. Ronaldo's goals didn't take them away.
But somehow, at the end of a miserable day, he inspired a spontaneous fist-pump, a joyful release in an empty living room.
After a day obsessed with uncertainty, Ronaldo proved to be the only certainty. He defied cynicism and even his own age to do what he has always done.
He stands like a bronzed beacon in a boggy swamp of anxiety. Whatever else happens, he'll still be there, with bulging quads and perfect hair, lighting up the penalty box and scoring goals.
Nothing is certain, except Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is certain of everything, even when he pretends otherwise.
After the game, he claimed he was nervous and he probably was. He's still human after all - just - but once the game kicked off, muscle memory took over. And no one has more muscles than Ronaldo.
NO END IN SIGHT
There will come a time when even the 36-year-old must succumb to the inevitable physical decline, but early indications suggest that the endgame isn't coming yet and nor should it.
As long as he's still around, we have this freakish reminder of what the "ultimate edition" version of us looks like.
The same day commemorated the extremes of what people are capable of. At both ends of the spectrum, there are no limits.
Ronaldo has no limits, but in the best way, the only way that we should aspire to. He continues to view himself like a biological experiment. How far can a human being be pushed, for good, for greatness, for joy?
At this point, he's making it up as he goes along, maintaining peaks of performance that few, if any, have reached in his profession.
In an era of relentless pessimism, Ronaldo exudes nothing but optimism.
That's why Old Trafford chanted his name for an hour before the game - and an hour after. That's why the world stayed up for his return. And that's why a cynical writer punched the air when Ronaldo's second goal went in.
There are so few things to cheer about these days. But in that regard, Ronaldo has never let us down.