Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice on his Premier League return to Old Trafford after 12 years. Ronaldo appeared in the colours of Manchester United wearing the famous number 7 on his jersey and his presence on the field instantly created a vibrant atmosphere amongst the Manchester United fans.
But, putting all the media hype to one side – what do the numbers tell us about Ronaldo’s actual performance?
Ronaldo played in the number 9 role for United and at times moved to a wider position with Greenwood taking his position in the centre. He had a high impact on the game as he scored the first two goals for his team. He attempted the most number of attacking actions in the game as he had the highest number of shots and also attempted six dribbles. As a result he recorded a high xG and was able to get into dangerous positions for United.
Ronaldo attempted six shots on goal and had two of those shots on target. He was able to convert both chances he got on target. Ronaldo attempted most of his shots from inside the box and this resulted in a higher xG for him. While the first goal was a rebound off the keeper, it displayed the predatory instincts of Ronaldo as he was the only player who anticipated an error from the keeper and followed up to tap the ball into the goal.
The second goal Ronaldo scored displayed his pace and control of shot over the ball. Most of the players are not able to keep the ball on target at such a pace, but Ronaldo was in full control and hit a powerful low drive that went through the legs of the Newcastle keeper.
Ronaldo received the ball 49 times from his teammates and this indicates the trust his teammates already have in him to be able to create an opportunity out of the passes made to him. Ronaldo prefers to stay upfront and had majority of his touches in the final third of the pitch. Ronaldo started the game as a number 9 but was seen drifting to the wider positions when he was not receiving the ball through the centre. This explains why Ronaldo received passes on the wider areas of the pitch as well.
After only playing one game in the Premier League, Ronaldo has already entered the top scoring charts with his two goals against Newcastle. He has also generated a goals per 90 value of 1.88. Ronaldo has changed the way he approaches a game now as compared to his previous stint with United when he was more of a player who carried the ball from the wider areas to cut in on the goal. Now he is more of a dedicated number nine.
United needed someone who can score goals from the chances they create. With Anthony Martial out of form and Edinson Cavani going through an injury, Ronaldo is the perfect fit for the current United team as he can also switch position with Greenwood playing through the centre at times. With the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba who have the vision to provide the right passes into the box, Ronaldo can be as lethal and effective as he was at Juventus.
With the massive experience that he brings to the team, his most important asset is the winning mentality that he has and United need someone with such mentality to pass it on to their players. Manchester United finished strong last season and will aim towards higher goals this season with a more complete squad this year.