When it was first announced that Cristiano Ronaldo would return to Old Trafford, the club’s big Roy Keane had a clear message.
“He wants to bring a winning mentality to the locker room, he’s a fitness freak and I think he’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen in my life,” he said. Sky Sports back then.
“He’s adapted his game and he’s a winner.”
Despite all the criticism of Ronaldo and his role at United, there is no doubt that the last part of this statement has been true in the early stages of his second stay at the club.
It was Ronaldo to the rescue again on Wednesday morning as he scored both Manchester United goals in a 2-all draw against Atalanta in the Champions League.
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The second – a fantastic volley during the break – was exactly what we have come to expect from the 36-year-old.
Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek both played a key role in the prelude to United’s second goal, but both were injected only in the last five minutes of the match, which in turn led to questions about Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s decision making.
It may not have won the United match this time, but it certainly eased the pressure on Solskjær, who has been under intense control since a 5-0 loss to Liverpool.
Solskjær’s acquisition of Ronaldo has come under scrutiny due to United’s more pressing problems at the back and in midfield.
But his late heroism against Atalanta was nothing new for Ronaldo, who also stole the show late against the same opponents in a 3-2 victory late last month.
Ronaldo’s biggest highlight came a month earlier against Villarreal when he fired a late match-winner in the 95th minute to secure a 2-1 victory.
As many as 13 of Ronaldo’s 15 goals this season have been either matching or ready-to-score.
“People,” he says [Cristiano Ronaldo] not doing enough on the pitch, but he does the hardest thing: scoring goals, ”said Rio Ferdinand BT Sport.
“Regardless of country, stadium, moment, he responds on special occasions.”
Talking to BT Sport After the match, Ronaldo admitted that United could eventually have been “a little bit lucky” in escaping with a draw.
“But it’s football,” he added.
“The beginning was tough.
“We knew Atalanta would put a lot of pressure, they have a great coach, when I played for Juventus, they were always hard to play against.”