Football Features

How Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United return went down with fans

By J Smith

Published: 19:49, 31 July 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to action for Manchester United in their final pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, but it didn’t all exactly go to plan for the Portuguese star. 

Ronaldo’s future has been the subject of much speculation this summer, with the heat turned up when he was accompanied to Man Utd’s training ground by his agent, Jorge Mendes.

Nevertheless, Ronaldo was named in the starting XI for the Red Devils’ clash with Vallecano at Old Trafford on Sunday. Prior to the match, manager Erik ten Hag revealed the veteran forward is far behind his teammates in terms of fitness.

“He is not on the level of the rest of the squad because he missed a lot of weeks. But he needs games and he needs training, a lot,” said the Dutchman.

Indeed, Ronaldo managed just 45 minutes on Sunday, replaced at half-time by youngster Amad Diallo who, within three minutes of coming on, fired United into a 1-0 lead. You can guess how supporters reacted…

Further ire was sent Ronaldo’s way when it emerged that he had left the stadium long before the final whistle, rather than staying until the end to watch his teammates play out a 1-1 draw against their Spanish counterparts.

However, according to The United Stand, Ronaldo was just one of a clutch of United players allowed to leave early by Ten Hag, alongside the likes of David de Gea, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Dalot and Anthony Martial. The group were let go before the final whistle in order to ‘beat the traffic and the crowds’, rather than anything more sinister.

With Ronaldo now back in action for Man Utd after a summer of speculation, the focus on his performances will be sharper than ever heading into the start of the new Premier League season next week.

A repeat of the two-goal performance he put in on his first league game back for the Red Devils last year — inspiring a 24-goal season across all competitions — would be the perfect way to silence the doubters.