Cristiano Ronaldo texted Rio Ferdinand after his late winner in Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Villarreal in the Champions League, saying he ‘knew’ he would score despite not playing well.
Alex Telles cancelled out Paco Alcacer’s opener with a stunning volley on the hour-mark to set up a thrilling finish to Wednesday evening’s Group F clash, a repeat of last year’s Europa League final.
Groans echoed around Old Trafford as chance after chance went begging but Ronaldo left it late to rescue the Red Devils when they needed him most, combining brilliantly with Jesse Lingard before squeezing the ball past Geronimo Rulli.
Ronaldo’s ‘Fergie time’ strike sent the home crowd into raptures and it was fitting that the great man himself was there in the stands to witness Portuguese’s heroics as United leapfrogged their Spanish opposition into third place.
Ferdinand – who, like Sir Alex, played a role in Ronaldo’s return to Manchester this summer – waxed lyrical about Ronaldo’s trademark goal as he analysed the game for BT Sport and lifted the lid on a message he received from his former team-mate in the aftermath.
The legendary ex-United and England defender said: ‘He texted me tonight saying, ”I didn’t play well but I knew I’d score”, and that’s the belief he has.
‘The other players are feeding off it. It’s a great place to be.
‘United’s performance today wasn’t great, it wasn’t at the level Ole wants it to be. But when you need a goal, a moment to galvanise the squad, the stadium, the fanbase, Cristiano Ronaldo steps up.
‘He wants to be that guy the chance falls to. His goal record says it all. He’s there for the big moments. He’s a big part of that too.’
Ferdinand believes Ronaldo’s very presence makes every other United player more ‘relaxed’ when searching for a goal.
‘When you have a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, the players in the dressing room are given life,’ he added.
‘There’s a lease of life, belief, because they know if the chance comes, he will put them away.
‘It gives you that ability to be relaxed. It was the biggest thing in our team. When you get under even more pressure and you can see the clock ticking, you don’t panic.
‘We were very composed because we believed the chances would come.’
An under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have breathed a sigh of relief as Ronaldo’s strike hit the back of the net and the Norwegian lauded his superstar summer signing’s never-say-die attitude at his post-match press conference.
‘When you have Cristiano on the pitch you always have a chance,’ the United head coach said.
‘He is so good in front of goal and has an impact on everyone – the crowd, the players the whole club.
‘He’s done that so many times. When you saw him against Ireland a month ago, he missed a penalty early and didn’t touch the ball more or less, but scored two great headers in the last few minutes.
‘That’s what he’s done throughout his career. He stays in the game. I’ve seen him all day, the way he’s built up for this game and when he gets that one chance it’s a goal.
‘He had a couple of half chances but a true mark of a great finisher that he keeps calm when the chance arrives.’
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