Ronaldo 'happy to be back home' at Man Utd
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Portugal’s 2-1 win against the Republic of Ireland will have still left Manchester United concerned for the future of Bruno Fernandes’ connection with new signing Cristiano Ronaldo. The new team-mates both started at the Estadio Do Algrave as Fernando Santos’ side hosted the Boys in Green.
It was the first time that Fernandes and Ronaldo were playing together since the latter’s return to Old Trafford.
But the World Cup qualifier has arguably dampened expectations that Ronaldo could thrive alongside Fernandes at Old Trafford.
The duo struggled to link up against the Irish, with Ronaldo having just one shot in the entire first-half.
That shot was from an early penalty, which had been controversially won by Fernandes, but Ronaldo saw his spot-kick saved by Gavin Bazunu.
But thereafter, the new team-mates found it difficult to link up, despite the hosts dominating possession.
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Santos’ men had 69 per cent of the ball in the first half, but they failed to create many chances that threatened Bazunu’s goal.
Fernandes and Ronaldo also frequently lost the ball when they attempted to take on Irish defenders, allowing the visitors to launch quick counter-attacks.
While they had little of the possession, it was Stephen Kenny’s Ireland who opened the scoring at the Estadio Do Algarve.
On the cusp of half-time, Jamie McGrath whipped in a corner, which Sheffield United defender John Egan glanced into the far corner.
Despite the scare of having conceded, Portugal continued to struggle to unlock the stout Irish defence.
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It was somewhat reminiscent of United’s own problems with breaking down defensive-minded opponents.
Ronaldo did equalise for the hosts with a towering header which found a way past Bazunu in the last minute of normal time.
He then turned the game totally on its head with another header at the back post in the last second of the match, which flew past Bazunu and claimed all three points for his country.
Portugal had deployed a 4-3-3 formation to start the game, with Ronaldo spearheading the attack and Fernandes in central midfield.
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It is a formation that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen to bring in at United, in an attempt to utilise as many attacking players as possible.
But on the evidence of Wednesday’s win, such a formation change may fail to bring out the best in Fernandes and Ronaldo.
Ronaldo appeared to be moved out to the left wing for the second-half, though again Portugal struggled to penetrate the Irish backline.
The struggles reached such a point that Fernandes was substituted off just after the hour mark, to the visible frustration of the midfielder.
Though Ronaldo did win the game for the hosts, the match will prompt some doubt at United over the best way to utilise both Ronaldo and Fernandes in the same team.
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