Cristiano Ronaldo will be recharging his batteries this week ahead of a perfect opportunity to rewrite the headlines next Sunday, in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
United’s no.7 feeds off the big-game atmosphere and they don’t come much bigger than a local showdown with City on our neighbours’ patch.
Ronaldo’s derby record is promising, with 12 matches against the Blues in a red shirt resulting in five victories in the Premier League and an FA Cup success.
The Portuguese forward’s farewell goal for United in 2009 was a strike that helped the Reds secure a 2-0 derby victory at Old Trafford and put us two games away from securing a third consecutive Premier League title.
When Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid, he was unbeaten in four Champions League meetings with City and his exploits against them included an 89th-minute winner at the Bernabeu in September 2012, to give the Spaniards three vital points in the group stage.
These were heady days that were matched at the start of this season on his return to the club. Ronaldo was back with a bang in September as the transfer window closed and he rejoined the Reds from Juventus to a great fanfare from Juventus.
Two goals in his second debut against Newcastle United at Old Trafford heralded a remarkable homecoming. It was then hard to rest a hero who was on fire and his brilliantly conditioned physique at 37 didn’t suggest he needed a break as he started in 18 matches up to the New Year, scoring a tremendous 14 goals, plus five for Portugal.
However, 2022 has been a bit different and Ronaldo has found goals harder to come by. He ended a rare drought when he scored against Brighton but his efforts to net his second strike of this calendar year were all thwarted in Saturday’s visit from Watford.
Cristiano’s fourth-minute shot hit the post and he was frustrated when he found the back of the net in the 15th minute, only for the potential opener to be ruled out for offside.
What a difference that could have made as United went on to draw 0-0 against Roy Hodgson’s relegation battlers.
It prompted questions to Ralf Rangnick about Ronaldo’s game time and whether too much had been piled on his shoulders.
“Edinson [Cavani] is not available. We don’t have that many other central strikers,” responded our interim boss, during his post-match press conference.
“I brought on, for the last 20 minutes or so, Marcus [Rashford] and Jadon [Sancho] so almost all the offensive players we have in our squad were on the pitch.”