Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return to Premier League football with a brace as Manchester United downed Newcastle United 4-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday. The Portuguese forward netted either side of a Magpies equaliser, before Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard sealed the win with goals late in the second half.
United dominated possession throughout the first half, but Newcastle’s deep, disciplined back five nullified the hosts’ abundant attacking threat. Neither side registered a shot on target in the game’s opening quarter, with United going closest when Raphaël Varane slipped his marker to glance a corner wide of the far post.
With Ronaldo struggling to find time on the ball, his compatriot Fernandes remained United’s greatest attacking threat. His audacious chip from just inside the Newcastle half narrowly cleared the Magpies’ crossbar, a few minutes before his one-two with Jadon Sancho culminated in the latter prodding just wide.
In the end, United’s opening goal required more than a slice of fortune. It came in stoppage time at the end of the first half, when Mason Greenwood skipped off the right to drive an innocuous-looking effort towards Freddie Woodman’s near post. The shot took a deflection on its way through, and the young keeper could only parry it straight to Ronaldo, who tapped in his first United goal in over 12 years.
United had shown occasional defensive frailties in the first half, but Newcastle had lacked the requisite precision to take advantage of them. Not so 10 minutes into the second period, when clumsy defending from Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire enabled the twinkle-toed Allan Saint-Maximin to send Javi Manquillo clean through on goal. From close range, the Spanish wing-back buried the ball inside David de Gea’s far post for 1-1.
Fortunately, it took little over five minutes for the hosts to restore their advantage, with Ronaldo sealing his brace. Some slick passing in United’s midfield bought Shaw the space to drive forward from left-back, before threading through to Ronaldo. It wasn’t the Portuguese forward’s cleanest hit, but the shot bobbled through the legs of Woodman and into the back of the net.
United wrapped up the win with 10 minutes left on the clock, and the third was the pick of the bunch. With the Newcastle defence tiring, Paul Pogba rolled the ball across to Fernandes in space just outside the area. He needed no second invitation to smack a characteristically special arcing shot into the top corner for 3-1. If Ronaldo’s brace had come with a helping hand from Woodman, there was nothing the Newcastle keeper could’ve done about United’s third.
There was still time for United to add a fourth, with Jesse Lingard getting in on the act with a fine finish in stoppage time. The hosts knocked the ball around on the edge of the Newcastle box, before Anthony Martial dummied a Pogba pass into Lingard’s path. The substitute forward curled a superb effort inside the far post, capping a fine win with his first United goal since July 2020.