After scoring twice to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday, a jubilant Christiano Ronaldo wrote on Instagram that he was “glad to be back” at his old club.
Long before kick-off, a packed crowd erupted in a chorus of Ronaldo chants and songs as he increased his tally for the club to 120 goals, 12 years after moving from Manchester to Madrid.
The Portuguese’s first term at Manchester United ended with a Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2009, which signalled a shift in European football in which Ronaldo played a key role.
Barcelona was awarded European champions again in 2011 and 2015, while Real Madrid, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, won the competition four times between 2014 and 2018.
With two all-English Champions League finals in the last three years, the power balance between La Liga and the Premier League has swung again.
However, after Alex Ferguson’s resignation as manager in 2013, they have not highlighted United as an indication of the club’s demise.
Since reaching their third final in four years in 2011, the English giants have only made two trips to the quarter-finals, where they were thrashed by Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
United has failed to qualify for the Champions League in three of the eight seasons since Ferguson’s departure.
Solskjaer has no excuses.
With the addition of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has few excuses for failing in Europe.
The Norwegian was hired as United manager largely due to the legend of him scoring United’s most famous Champions League goal in the 1999 final against Bayern Munich.
However, in his two seasons as manager, he has failed to win the Europa League despite having by far the largest budget in the league, and he fell out of the Champions League at the group stage last season.
United’s latest European campaign kicks off on Tuesday against Young Boys in Switzerland, with Solskjaer’s side in desperate need of a win ahead of stiffer tests against Villarreal, who upset United in last season’s Europa League final, and Atalanta.
“We have a good team, a young team, with a fantastic coach, but we need to build confidence,” Ronaldo stated after scoring a hat-trick against Newcastle.
“We need to mature as a squad if we want to win the league and the Champions League, but we’re on the right track, and I’m here to assist the team.”
Ronaldo is only the latest weapon in a barrage of attacking weapons that makes Solskjaer’s team the envy of most European coaches.
On Saturday, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was flanked by Mason Greenwood and £73 million signing Sancho, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba supplying ammunition from midfield.
Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani are still out with injuries, thus Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Donny van de Beek started on the bench.
On Ronaldo, Solskjaer stated, “We know what a goalscorer he is.” “He detects the passage of time and comes to life.
“It’s not just Cristiano, though. Mason has had a wonderful start to the season, Bruno has already scored four goals, Anthony and Jesse are waking up, Marcus is on his way back, and Jadon will score goals.
“I know we have ambitions; it’s just a matter of finding a balance in the rest of the setup.”
Ronaldo has returned, and it is now up Manchester United to demonstrate that they are a serious contender in the Champions League.