Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season as Manchester United defeated Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 in the Europa League.
After Jadon Sancho’s opener, Ronaldo doubled United’s lead in Moldova from the penalty spot in the first half – the 699th goal of his club career.
It was an important victory for United following defeat in the Europa League against Real Sociedad last week, and it was a much-needed goal for Ronaldo, who has struggled to earn a place in the starting 11 under manager Erik ten Hag.
The 37-year-old was reported to have been looking for a move away from United over the summer, such was his desire to play in the Champions League, and was absent during preseason.
“We could expect this when you miss preseason, so he has to work really hard and invest to get the right fitness. Then he will score more goals,” ten Hag said of Ronaldo’s slow start
“You can see he is really close (and) when he gets fitter he will finish (his chances). I think (he is) totally committed to this project and totally committed to this team, totally involved.”
United took the lead on Thursday with a well-worked move in the 17th minute. After a neat interchange of passes, Christian Eriksen found Sancho, who created space in the area to get a shot past Sheriff goalkeeper Maksym Koval.
Sancho almost got a second later in the half, but saw his shot superbly cleared off the line by Stjepan Radeljić.
Moments later, however, Diogo Dalot was brought down in the box, allowing Ronaldo to step up and extend United’s lead six minutes before halftime.
There were more chances for United in the second half, including for midfielder Bruno Fernandes, but the scoreline remained 2-0.
”We got the job done, and we know it is always difficult to play here,” said ten Hag.
“We were really direct, but I also feel like we controlled the game – not from the first minute, but after 10 minutes, we found our foot in the game and managed to create some spaces.”
With United’s weekend fixture against Leeds postponed following the Queen’s death, the team’s next game will be against derby rival Manchester City on October 2.