Man United in 2021: Ronaldo's return, Ole out and Rangnick revolution
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This Boxing Day, Cristiano Ronaldo will be sitting at home watching the football unfold just like the rest of us. Manchester United will tackle Newcastle in tomorrow night’s game and the Portugal international is expected to start, especially having had some much-needed time off. Now, it’s time to look back at just how devastating he was when playing under Sir Alex Ferguson on this holiday day.
For the first three years of his United career, Ronaldo didn’t always set the world alight.
Yet after a bust-up with Wayne Rooney at the 2006 World Cup, he then returned to Old Trafford a player completely transformed.
Many had expected Ronaldo to leave United that summer, with both Barcelona and Real Madrid keen on snapping him up at the time.
But he stayed instead and proved key as the Red Devils knocked Chelsea off their perch to win three titles in a row.
Ronaldo, in the 2006/2007 season, emerged as one of the best players in world football.
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And he was unplayable on Boxing Day against Wigan that year, scoring twice in four minutes to help his side extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table.
Prior to the contest, Ferguson decided to leave Ronaldo on the bench.
That wasn’t due to an injury, but merely the Scot opting to give his prized asset a rest with the games coming thick and fast.
Yet with the match goalless at the interval, United brought Ronaldo on – to devastating effect, too.
The forward put United ahead with a fine header before then scoring from close range after Chris Kirkland had saved his penalty.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his future manager, then scored a third for United before Leighton Baines registered a late consolation.
After the game, Ferguson was in no doubt that Ronaldo changed the game.
He praised the forward by saying: “I had a feeling he would change the game.
“We needed a quick response to what happened in the first half and Cristiano is in such great form, it was an obvious move.
“He lit up the crowd and got us two goals, which is just what we were looking for.”
The following year, United travelled to Sunderland – who were fighting to stay in the Premier League under Roy Keane at the time.
And Ronaldo, along with Wayne Rooney, was the star of the show again.
Rooney and Louis Saha put the Red Devils 2-0 up within the first 30 minutes, with Ronaldo then scoring a sublime free-kick to extend their lead.
Saha scored his second goal of the game late on yet Carlos Quieroz chose to praise Ronaldo and Rooney when quizzed by the BBC in the aftermath of the match.
“It was a great Manchester United performance, with lots of concentration and determination,” he said.
“The first goal, coming so early, was a turning point and helped us have what looked to be a comfortable win.
“The movement off the ball was special and that helped Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to play so well.”
Ronaldo, in those two matches, was operating at the peak of his powers.
And though he struggled against Stoke on Boxing Day in 2008, he still helped his team to a 1-0 win with Carlos Tevez scoring the only goal of the game.
United fans would have loved to have been treated to another Ronaldo masterclass today but, instead, they’ll have to wait another 24 hours to see how the veteran fares.
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