Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a dream Old Trafford homecoming as the returning star’s brace helped Manchester United to a comprehensive victory against Newcastle.
A fortnight of anticipation reached fever pitch on Saturday afternoon as the 36-year-old stepped out at his old stomping ground in a red shirt for the first time in 12 years and 118 days.
It was a sight few ever expected to see again and Ronaldo, ever the showman, rose to the occasion.
The frontman opened the scoring and put United back ahead after Javier Manquillo had levelled for Newcastle, with Bruno Fernandes’ stunner and a fine Jesse Lingard goal sealing a 4-1 victory at a bouncing Old Trafford.
It was a memorable occasion that saw deafening roars greet Ronaldo’s name being read out, let alone in response to his goals which he celebrated with the customary jump into the corner with his arms by his side.
Sir Alex Ferguson was in attendance along with rarely-spotted co-chairman Avram Glazer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Saturday, when Newcastle’s resolve was broken in first-half stoppage time.
Ronaldo had a simple tap-in after Freddie Woodman spilled a deflected Mason Greenwood effort, but the hosts had looked shaky defensively and Manquillo fired home after a fine Newcastle break early in the second half.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were not to be denied.
Luke Shaw superbly threaded through Ronaldo to fire home in front of the Stretford End, with compatriot Fernandes scoring a 25-yard rocket before substitute Lingard wrapped things up in stoppage time.
The match was a fitting end to the hullabaloo that followed Ronaldo’s return, with number seven shirts old and new filling the ground as home fans cheered his every move.
But it was not all positivity towards the forward. As well as chants by Newcastle fans, a banner was flown over Old Trafford in support of the woman who accused Ronaldo of rape – an allegation he denies.