Thursday 23, March 2023

‘He can make the difference’

He did it for Real Madrid when he scored a hat-trick in the second leg to single-handedly overturn a 2-0 first-leg loss against Wolfsburg and take Los Blancos to the semifinals, and eventually all the to glory, in the Champions League in 2016.   

'Home we smash them,' is what Ronaldo had told his former Manchester United teammate Patrice Evra five days before he scored another incredible Champions League hat-trick to overcome a 0-2 deficit against Atletico Madrid and progress to the quarterfinals in 2019.

This time, it is yet again Atletico who stand in Ronaldo's way as Manchester United see the last-16 tie at home to the Spanish side level at 1-1 after the first leg in Madrid. And the 37-year-old, who silenced his critics with a sensational hat-trick in United's 3-2 win over Tottenham in the Premier League last Saturday, is now adamant to help United keep their European dream alive.         

"Tomorrow [Tuesday] is one of those days that we've all been waiting for. One of those chances to show the world the reason why Old Trafford is known as the Theatre of Dreams," Ronaldo wrote on his Facebook yesterday. 

"Let's recreate the amazing atmosphere that we saw in our last home game and let's keep our Champions League dream alive! We are Man. United! Let's do this together! Let's go, Devils!" Ronaldo added.

Ronaldo's hat-trick against Tottenham saw him become all-time leading scorer in professional football with 807 goals to his name. But his treble came after a dismal run of one goal in 10 games, raising questions regarding his ability to deliver at the top-level at this age. 

Ronaldo, however, brushed aside all those doubts in the only emphatic way he knew. And even though the 37-year-old has only about 72 hours to recover from his exertions against Tottenham, Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick is confident he will be able to reproduce his form from the weekend and deliver a stand-out performance with so much at stake.

"Well, I'm not worried that he has not been able to recover," Rangnick said on Monday. "So far he's always been a person who looks quite a lot after himself, his body and he exactly knows what to do, so I'm not worried about that.

"If he can score another three goals, we will see. I mean, it's not so easy to score three goals against this team at all. For us it's important with performances like the one that he showed [against Tottenham], he's still a very important player in this team. He can make the difference.

"I think his overall performance was just good, if not even very good and this is obviously what we hope to get from him again tomorrow night. But it's not just about Cristiano, it's about the whole team," Rangnick added. 

Being a first-hand spectator of Ronaldo's heroics time and again when he played for Real Madrid, Diego Simeone's side will definitely be wary of the Portuguese.  

And Ragnick underlined why Ronaldo remains so feared by defenders across Europe.

"I just think he showed what kind of professional player he is, what kind of level he can still play," said the German.


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