London (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo is set to receive a hero’s welcome at Old Trafford on Saturday when he makes his second debut for Manchester United against Newcastle on his return to the Premier League.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who left United to join Real Madrid in 2009, returned to the club in a surprise transfer from Juventus just before the transfer deadline.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the 36-year-old forward would feature “at some point” in the 1400 GMT kickoff.
Since joining United Ronaldo broke the all-time international goalscoring record with his 110th goal for Portugal in a World Cup qualifier win against the Republic of Ireland.
Having being suspended for the subsequent game against Azerbaijan for removing his shirt in celebration, he jetted to England and has been training with his new team-mates for the past few days.
It remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will start the match or come off the bench.
“He’s been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he’s played for the national team, he’s had a good week with us here,” Solskjaer said.
“He will definitely be on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure.”
Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during six trophy-laden years with United, before going on to shine with Real and Juventus.
– Ferguson connection –
It seemed United would miss out on a reunion with their former star when Manchester City moved to sign him.
But Ronaldo has said his relationship with former United manager Alex Ferguson played a key role in convincing him to return to Old Trafford, calling the move “a dream come true”.
Solskjaer, who played with Ronaldo during his first spell at the club, said: “Of course we’ve followed his career from afar since he left here and I think everyone’s very happy to have him back.
“He can speak for himself but he seems like he’s happy to be back as well.
“The mood’s been very good, he’s worked well and we’re looking forward to Saturday, of course.”
Before the unexpected acquisition of Ronaldo, Solskjaer had already strengthened his squad with swoops for 21-year-old England forward Jadon Sancho and French World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane.
United will be expected to challenge champions Manchester City for the title after such a productive transfer window.
Solskjaer believes Ronaldo will add a higher level of quality to the squad, both physically and mentally, as they try to land a first trophy of the Norwegian’s reign.
“We have grown as a group the last few years. The determination, the desire, the focus has improved over time and bit by bit,” he said.
“Even like bringing Raphael (Varane) in, he’s come in with a winner’s mentality, an unbelievable focus.
“Then of course Cristiano comes in as well and there’s no place to hide when you’ve got winners like them. You can’t go into training and give 95 percent or not being focused.”