It’s the biggest match of the weekend in European soccer: Cristiano Ronaldo is set to play his first game in a Manchester United jersey since his return to the club where he became a global star from 2003 to 2009. The second debut will come against Newcastle United at Man United’s home of Old Trafford on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed that the 36-year-old Portuguese legend would see the field the day before the match and he inserted him into the starting lineup.
Ronaldo was acquired in a $28 million transfer from Italian club Juventus at the end of August. He didn’t make it in time to play any matches with Man United prior to the international break for World Cup qualifiers at the start of September. That’s when he joined Portugal and starred in a big come-from-behind win against the Republic of Ireland in which he scored two late goals to set the all-time international scoring record for men.
His first day of training with Manchester United came on Sept. 7, after a five-day quarantine on the heels of his trip to Portugal. He was able to make an early return to England to quarantine after picking up a yellow card for his goal celebration against the Republic of Ireland. Since it was his second yellow card during qualifying, it ruled him out of Portugal’s other qualifying match against Azerbaijan, which the Portuguese still won handily 3-0.
How to watch Ronaldo’s debut in the USA
- Date: Saturday, Sept. 11
- Time: 10 a.m. ET
- TV channel: USA Network
- Spanish-language TV: Universo
- Streaming: fuboTV
Ronaldo’s first official match back for Manchester United will come at home against Newcastle United in a match that will be televised by USA Network (English) and Universo (Spanish). Both channels are streamed on fuboTV, which offers a free seven-day trial.
MORE: Why Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United
Ronaldo starts for Manchester United
Ronaldo got the start after training for a full week with Manchester United. He should be match fit after playing for the Portuguese national team in September and completing a full preseason of training with Juventus.
Solskjaer, a former Manchester United player who’s been at the helm of the club since December 2018, was grilled earlier in the week about how he will manage Ronaldo’s workload this season: “He knows that I’ve got to make the decisions when to play him, when not to play him. Any player wants to play as much as possible, of course they do.
MORE: Photos from Ronaldo’s first training session with Man United
“It’s my job to manage him and get the best out of him. I want to see the best out of him and, of course, that comes with communication with him. He doesn’t need me to tell him what to do. He’s always had the determination and desire to be the best and he still has.”
Earlier in the week, Ronaldo told Manchester United’s TV channel that he was planning on sticking around for several years. His new Manchester United contract is a two-year deal with an option for a third.
“I am not here for a vacation,” he said. “Before was good, winning important things and I wore the shirt before many years ago, but I am here to win again … I am ready and I think I will be a huge thing in the next three or four years.”
The addition of his prolific goal-scoring to Manchester United’s current star-studded squad should help the team contend for the two big prizes this season: the English Premier League title and the UEFA Champions League. He won three EPL championships and raised the Champions League once during his previous spell with the Red Devils, scoring 118 goals in 292 appearances across all competitions.
What number will Ronaldo wear?
Ronaldo left Manchester United in 2009 after donning the No. 7 shirt at Old Trafford, and he picked up the same number during his time with both Real Madrid and Juventus to keep up the promotion of his ‘CR7’ brand.
MORE: Ronaldo sets all-time men’s int’l scoring record
There was some speculation over whether he would have to wear a different number after re-signing for United, with Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani having worn the No. 7 after his arrival at the club on a free transfer in the summer of 2020.
However, Cavani agreed to pass the shirt back to Ronaldo and take up the No. 21 instead, which he also wears at the international level for Uruguay.