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Cristiano Ronaldo: Back in the team, back in the goals

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the Manchester United side and shot down FC Sheriff in the Europa League

Roddy Cons
Soccer Football - Europa League - Group E - Manchester United v Sheriff Tiraspol - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - October 27, 2022 Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their third goal with Marcus Rashford REUTERS/Craig Brough     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Thursday 27 October – the latest twist in the Cristiano Ronaldo-Erik Ten Hag-Manchester United tale. It’s getting hard to keep up.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s misdemeanours at Manchester United this season

The legendary Portuguese striker has hit the headlines for plenty of the wrong reasons so far this season. Here’s a little summary:

31 JulyRonaldo is substituted at half-time in the pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano and leaves Old Trafford before the match has finished.

16 October – The ex-Real Madrid man makes a rare league start at home to Newcastle and has two goals disallowed as the Red Devils toil to a goalless draw. To further compound his misery, Ten Hag hauls him off for Marcus Rashford after 72 minutes and Ronaldo is visibly not happy (to say the very least).

19 October – Ronaldo is back on the bench in the home game against Tottenham Hotspur, with Rashford preferred ahead of him. Asked to come on in the second half, he refuses and heads off down the tunnel before the final whistle.

Cristiano Ronaldo abraza a Alejandro Garnacho durante un partido con el Manchester United.
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Cristiano Ronaldo offering words of wisdom to young teammate Alejandro Garnacho against SherrifCRAIG BROUGHREUTERS

That last misdemeanour proved to be a step too far for Ten Hag, who dished out a number of quick-fire punishments to an experienced player not living up to his tag as a role model (we saw just how much United youngster Alejandro Garnacho idolises his veteran teammate following the victory against Sheriff). A hefty fine, forced to train alone and left out of the squad for last weekend’s draw at Chelsea. “If you don’t want to play then you’re not going to play,” seemed to be the message.

Cristiano Ronaldo back in the team and in amongst the goals against FC Sheriff in the Europa League

But Thursday 27 October will go down as one of Ronaldo’s happier days, certainly in recent times. A day earlier, the Portuguese took to Instagram, posting a picture from a training session with a beaming smile, accompanied by the caption, “Back on track, with the same commitment and dedication as always.”

Was it always Ten Hag’s intention to give Ronaldo just a one-match punishment? Was a conversation had between the two? Or is the Dutchman an Instagram addict? Whichever of those is true, the Portugal captain found himself back in the squad and indeed the team for Thursday’s Europa League clash against Sheriff. And not only in the team, but also in amongst the goals, netting from close range after his initial header had been parried back to him.

Is this a sign Ronaldo will get more game time? Possibly not but, with no chance of a move before January and, more importantly, a World Cup around the corner, some game time is better than none. Portugal need him fit and firing, so every minute – and of course goal – helps.