It’s not a bad way for the Portuguese superstar to score another record-breaking Champions League night.
In his record 178th appearance in the competition, Ronaldo made his most decisive intervention with virtually the last kick of the game at Old Trafford to complete United’s spectacular comeback in a 2-1 win over Villarreal on Wednesday.
After winning a header from a hopeful cross into the box, Ronaldo showed his liveliness at the age of 36 by then reacting to a loose ball after a touch from substitute Jesse Lingard and shooting under the goalkeeper. Villarreal Geronimo Rulli from a narrow angle.
Old Trafford erupted, with great sprinter Usain Bolt among United supporters celebrating as chants of ‘Viva Ronaldo’ swept through the stadium.
It was Ronaldo’s fifth goal in five games since joining Juventus for a second stint at United and certainly his most important.
Oh, and score 136 Champions League goals – a record, of course.
Where would United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer be without Ronaldo? It looked like another punishing result for the Norwegian manager, who was starting to come under pressure with United having started Group F with a shocking 2-1 loss to Swiss outsider Young Boys, then losing two straight games at Old Trafford on the national front – one in the Premier League and another to be eliminated from the English League Cup.
Villarreal appeared to give United a second consecutive group loss taking the lead in the 53rd thanks to Paco Alcacer, who pierced United goalkeeper David De Gea’s legs following a cross from Arnaut Danjuma.
United had been outplayed by then – Danjuma beat right-back Diogo Dalot several times on Villarreal’s left – but equalized in seven minutes thanks to an outrageous volley from Alex Telles.
Spotted by a punctual cross from Bruno Fernandes on a free kick, the Brazilian left side retreats at the entrance to the area and hits a first end which deflects inside the far post.
The result shattered a four-game winning streak between the teams in the Champions League, stretching back to even-numbered group matches in 2005 and 2008.
The teams also met in the Europa League final in May, with Villarreal winning a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw. Ronaldo wasn’t playing for United at the time, however, and is already proving to be making a difference.