Cristiano Ronaldo was “super nervous” before scoring twice on his much-hyped Manchester United return in their 4-1 win over Newcastle, after which boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he has allowed fans to “dream” again.
The 36-year-old was making his first appearance for the club in 12 years as a party atmosphere hit Old Trafford.
“I didn’t expect to score two goals,” the Portugal legend said.
“I expected one but not two. It was an unbelievable moment.”
Between 2003, when he joined as a teenager, and 2009, when he moved to Real Madrid for £80 million, Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 games for United.
Over the next 12 years, he scored 551 goals for Real Madrid and Juventus before returning to United on deadline day for a £12.8 million fee.
During his time in England, he won one of his five Champions League titles and one of his five Ballons d’Or.
United fans have been ecstatic ever since, despite the fact that they had to wait a long time for his second debut due to the international break. There was a buzz around the stadium hours before kickoff because people were wearing Ronaldo shirts and singing his name.
The fans in the stadium were still singing loudly long after the final whistle, as Ronaldo spoke to BBC Sport.
“It’s incredible. I swear I was nervous when I started the game “He stated. “I didn’t expect them to sing my name throughout the game. The reception has been fantastic, but I’m here to win games and help the team.
“It was an incredible experience. I was extremely nervous and was thinking last night that I wanted to play well and demonstrate that I was still capable of contributing to the team. This club is incredible, and I am so proud of it. I will do everything in my power to make them proud of me.
“Everyone knows that football in England is unlike any other country, and to be honest, it is the most unique. I arrived here at the age of 18 and was treated incredibly well, which is why I’m returning.”
With two of his six shots on goal, Ronaldo put United up 1-0 and 2-1.
His first Premier League appearance in 12 years and 118 days broke the previous record held by former Leicester and Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney (11 years and 155 days from 2002 to 2013).
His 12-year-and-124-day gap between consecutive Premier League goals is the second-longest in the league, trailing only ex-Everton and Wigan defender Matt Jackson.
He is the oldest player to score twice in a Premier League game since Graham Alexander of Burnley in 2010, and the oldest player to score for United in the Premier League since Ryan Giggs of United in 2013.
‘It was like the old days’
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his United debut with Ronaldo in 2003. He was overjoyed with the Portuguese’s return and the boost it appears to have given the club.
Since Ronaldo’s departure in 2009, United has only won the league title twice, and have not done so since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. The 2017 EFL Cup was their most recent trophy.
“I’m overjoyed for Cristiano,” he said to BBC Sport. “I’m overjoyed for the team and the fans.” Since he signed, you can feel the energy in the club. Because expectations were so high, it could easily have been an anti-climax.
“It’s like going back in time.” It’s unique. Cristiano Ronaldo is a special man and a special player in our club’s history.
“He recognises big moments and capitalises on them.” He’s cold-blooded and ruthless. He’s inspired the team and everyone in the club.
“Everyone is dreaming. They can dream and we’ll focus.”
‘There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight’
Ronaldo played more league minutes for Juventus last season than he did in any of his six seasons with United when he was in his teens and early twenties.
He scored 29 goals in 33 games in Serie A to go along with his Premier League (2008) and La Liga (2011, 2014, 2015) gold boots.
Alan Shearer, a former Newcastle striker who was still playing when Ronaldo was at United, was watching the game for BBC Match of the Day.
“Ronaldo retaliated against Newcastle,” he said.
“You have to applaud someone every now and then. He’s been fantastic for a long time. To come in and do what he’s done today – to do what he’s done his entire career – is incredible.
“You have to keep your hands up and have a lot of respect for him. He just keeps going and going. There appears to be no end in sight.”
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, a former Manchester United player, stated: “That is a centre-goalscoring forward’s instinct, where our defenders haven’t followed it in and he is on the end to get a tap in and change the game.
“If there is a genuine superstar among us, this kid is it, based on what he has accomplished. We saw it happen again today. He’s a unique individual.”