The anticipation is building for Cristiano Ronaldo’s second appearance at Manchester United.
Twelve years after his PS80million sale of Real Madrid to Portugal, the Portuguese superstar is back at Old Trafford and is set to don the red shirt once again in the coming days.
It could be against Newcastle United in Saturday’s Premier League or against Young Boys in Tuesday’s Champions League, depending on the 36 year-old’s fitness.
Ronaldo, who had been in Covid Quarantine at his Cheshire home for five days following his arrival in the UK, trained with the United squad on Tuesday.
He will be able to train with a few of his new teammates, but he won’t have the opportunity to do much before Saturday’s match.
Because Ronaldo has been a punisher of Newcastle most of his career, he will be relieved that they do not play any part.
In 11 previous encounters with Ronaldo, he has scored six goals and provided five assists. This includes a sensational hat trick in a 6-0 win at Old Trafford in January 2008.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of other English clubs that have suffered more from Ronaldo’s hands and will be able to take every precaution to avoid his return to the Premier League.
Tottenham are sick of seeing him after he scored 10 goals and assisted five times in 18 previous matches – six were for United, and four in four Champions League matches when at Real Madrid.
United fans will remember his stirring comeback victory against Spurs at Old Trafford in 2009 as a double. This was the way United won the title in 2009. United trailed by 2-0 at the 57th minute, before scoring five goals.
United’s September host, Aston Villa, has seen Ronaldo score nine more goals than them in the 14 previous games. There was one instance when he did not win.
After Federico Macheda’s famous last gasp winner, it is often forgotten that Ronaldo scored twice in United’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Villa to seal the title in 2009.
He’s scored seven goals against Fulham Athletic and Wigan Athletic, but they will not be facing each other this season. They play in League One and the Championship respectively. However, a cup pairing cannot be ruled out.
After scoring six goals against Arsenal in the past, Ronaldo will be salivating when United faces Arsenal. His strikes in the second leg at Emirates of the 2009 Champions League semifinal were most notable. He scored a free kick from an unbelievable distance and then assured United’s progress with a brilliant breakaway goal he co-created with Park Ji-sung, Wayne Rooney, and Wayne Rooney.
The changing composition of the Premier League can be seen in Ronaldo’s scoring record against English opponents.
He has scored six goals against Bolton and Portsmouth, who have fallen down the divisions during his absence.
When playing for United, he scored four goals against Manchester City. This was against a team far removed from the super-rich who are still accumulating trophies. In the 2012-13 Champions League group, he did score against them.
Less profitable outings against other big clubs were not possible. His celebrations at Anfield for Real, which he scored against Liverpool in the 2014-15 Champions League was a magnet for the fury from the crowd.
Chelsea are, however, Ronaldo-proof, with only one goal and two assists against in fifteen games. However, it must be noted that the goal in the Champions League final 2008 was a magnificent header.
He has scored more against the club to which he is returning than against Real. Ronaldo scored in both legs in Real’s 2013 Champions League knockout match with United, and for Juventus at Old Trafford again in 2018.
Wolves, Leicester, Leicester, Leeds, Crystal Palace and Crystal Palace are just a few of the English clubs that have managed to keep Ronaldo out, albeit with very limited sample sizes. They will be thrilled if they can again do so later in the season.
Evidence from the three previous seasons at Juventus shows that Ronaldo’s ability to score goals has not diminished with returns of 28, 37, and 36 in all competitions.
While the relative strengths of Serie A or the Premier League are open to debate, one thing is certain: Ronaldo’s desire to haunt United’s domestic rivals again.