Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal on Man Utd return in pictures
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If Manchester United fail to beat Villarreal tonight, their hopes of Champions League glory will be all but over. And that won’t satisfy Cristiano Ronaldo, especially after Lionel Messi’s masterclass for Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City on Thursday. The last time he failed to win the competition with the Red Devils, in 2009, he even took the step of criticising the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ronaldo was expected to leave United in the summer of 2008, with the Portugal international refusing to hide his desire to play for Real Madrid.
But he was eventually persuaded to stay at Old Trafford for one more year after holding direct talks with Ferguson in Lisbon.
It took Ronaldo a little while to find his feet at the beginning of the 2008/2009 campaign, with injury playing a part.
But, at the end of the season in particular, he was back to his devastating best.
Ronaldo dragged United to the Champions League final that season by starring when it really mattered.
His thunderbolt sunk Porto in the quarter-finals, coming after a 2-2 draw in the previous fixture at home.
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And Ronaldo bagged a sublime brace as United beat Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates in the semis, and 4-1 on aggregate.
Then, in the final, they faced Barcelona.
United were the favourites, despite going up against a side who were on the verge of a historic treble under Pep Guardiola.
And, in the first 10 minutes, they attacked Barcelona with blistering gusto.
Ronaldo himself could have scored twice, especially when his free-kick caused Victor Valdes all sorts of problems between the sticks.
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But then, up the other end, Barcelona struck through Samuel Eto’o – who chopped his way into the box before rifling home past Edwin van der Sar.
From that moment on, the game changed.
Barcelona took control and grabbed a sublime second through Messi, eventually robbing Ronaldo of the chance to win the Champions League again.
And, afterwards, the 36-year-old couldn’t contain his fury.
Ronaldo was so angry he even criticised Ferguson, insisting his tactics were wrong as they slumped to defeat.
“We only had 10 minutes and then we never found ourselves again,” he said.
“We did not do well, the tactics were not good and everything went wrong.
“It is always bad when you lose a final. We just didn’t play well. We did well in the first ten minutes but after they scored we just didn’t do well at all.
“I was confident before the game and I always am and it is just a big disappointment to me. It is one of the biggest disappointments of my career.”
That was the last time United failed to win the Champions League with Ronaldo in their squad.
And defeat tonight would all but end their hopes of glory, leaving them without a single point from their opening two matches.
If Ronaldo was willing to criticise Ferguson, how would he react to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?
After overseeing three defeats from his side’s last four matches, this is a rocky time for the Norwegian.
And another loss could tip Ronaldo overboard, especially with Messi and his PSG team looking so strong.
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