Ronaldo scores twice as Manchester United thrashes Newcastle to go top of Premier League

MANCHESTER, England — After all the hype, the buildup and expectation, Cristiano Ronaldo delivered in almost inevitable fashion on his return to Manchester United scoring twice to send his side top of the Premier League with a 4-1 win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

With his compatriot Bruno Fernandes adding an 80th minute screamer and substitute Jesse Lingard producing a lovely finish the fourth, it was the perfect start to what feels like a new era for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.

Long before kickoff, fans in shirts bearing Ronaldo’s name and his number 7 were singing the name of the Portuguese 36-year-old around Old Trafford and they were not to be left disappointed.

Ronaldo has broken all the major goalscoring records in the game and perhaps the only surprise was that it took him until almost half time to score the first of his second spell in English football.

He was placed in the middle of an attacking trio with Mason Greenwood to his right and Jadon Sancho to the left with Fernandes hovering behind the front line.

The five-times Ballon d’Or winner, who returned to United from Juventus last month, opened the scoring on the stroke of half time, pouncing from close range after Newcastle keeper Freddie Woodman spilled out a low drive from Greenwood.

It wasn’t spectacular, but it was the perfect example of the way Ronaldo, a speedy winger in his first spell at United, has reshaped himself as a goal-poaching striker.

It wasn’t all a “welcome home” party, however, as Javier Manquillo brought Newcastle level in the 56th minute with a low right-foot drive after Miguel Almiron had led a swift break from the visitors.

Newcastle had exposed an obvious drawback with the attacking lineup chosen by Solskjaer — their vulnerability to the counterattack — and it remains to be seen if better teams will be able to take greater advantage of the lack of protection in front of United’s back four.

United’s momentum was in danger of being lost, but once again the Portuguese showed his deadliness in front of goal, restoring the lead in the 62nd minute with a goal that truly did recall his early days under Alex Ferguson. — Reuters