Manchester United finally opened their Europa League account with a comfortable 2-0 win against Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
With no Premier League games till next month, this was the last chance for the squad to get some minutes under their belts before the all-important Manchester Derby.
One of the biggest takeaways from the game was Cristiano Ronaldo finally opening his account for the season with a finely-taken penalty in the first-half.
CR7 back on track
The 37-year-old’s first goal in eight appearances this season and the 699th of his club career will give him and the squad a lot of confidence going forward and this was touched upon by the manager.
“Ronaldo needed that goal. Many times he came close [in the season so far], but he wanted that so much. We are happy for him, and the team wanted to bring him a goal. You know that Cristiano will score a penalty,” Ten Hag had said at the end of the Sheriff game.
And the former Ajax coach was quick to highlight how Ronaldo’s form is improving constantly and his focus is fully on United instead of thinking of a way out as mentioned in a lot of reports.
“He has to work really hard and invest to get the right fitness and then he will score more goals. You can see he is really close. When he gets fitter, he will finish them.”
“I think he’s totally committed to this project and totally committed to this team. Totally involved. You see also connections coming around him and he is constructing connections, so I am happy with that,” Ten Hag told the club’s media team.
Last season, reports were rife about the lack of squad harmony and how Ronaldo was a disruptive influence in the dressing room. But the reaction of current United stars highlight the change in dressing room dynamics under the Dutch boss.
— Antony Santos (@antony00) September 16, 2022
United’s record purchase this summer, Antony posted a picture with Ronaldo titled, “Learning too much every day!!”
Squad harmony on full display
All the big stars ended up clashing with the Portuguese last season but that is not the case anymore under Ten Hag.Quite a few players came out and praised Ronaldo after his goal against the Moldovan opposition.
Jadon Sancho, the other goalscorer on the night, was all praise for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and mentioned how the team as a whole were happy for the former Real Madrid star and the hope now was for him to carry on.
“When Cristiano scores, when his confidence is up, he can score one, two, three, four,” Sancho told MUTV. “So, we are happy for him.”
Lisandro Martinez was another player who came out and praised Ronaldo and once again he mentioned how the entire squad was delighted for United’s No 7.
“We know how big Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals are. It is very important that he scored tonight for his confidence and for the team. We win 2-0 and it is great for us,” he was quoted as saying.
The current mood in the squad is a far-cry from the one prevalent last season and fans will be hoping this goes on to elevate the team’s play ahead of the busy October schedule.