The jump, pivot and land with outstretched arms as the Old Trafford crowd roared.
If anyone missed it the first time around on Saturday – and it’s hard to imagine when so many eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo – they had another shot in the second half.
It was always going to be Ronaldo’s day. Two goals, two opportunities to celebrate his hallmark in a 4-1 win over Newcastle, ensured the performance matched the club’s hype that fans young and old have embraced with their chants “Viva Ronaldo And their willingness to hand over money for new jerseys.
Less than five months ago, fans stormed the stadium in rage against the owners. Now the green and gold anti-Glazer protest scarves hung over the No.7 Ronaldo shirts for which the megastore has struggled to meet demand in the two weeks since arriving from Juventus .
The ‘Get out of our club’ chants were intended by Newcastle supporters for their owner, not at the local managers’ seats where Avram Glazer would have struggled to hear the few songs against his family on the Stretford side.
For the second Old Trafford crowd since the pandemic began 18 months ago, the ‘Welcome Home’ announcements left no doubt that they were for the superstar on the pitch.
“There were a lot of expectations and he kept his promises,” United manager and former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjær said. “He’s still a ruthless and clinical goalscorer. He feels the big moment.”
Ronaldo left United a year after winning their first Ballon d’Or in 2008. The Portugal captain returns a five-time winner, with the chiseled and lean body ensuring not only longevity to play at 36, but a status that transcends no only United but sport.
Ronaldo even laughed at himself. Like after the first miss when he swung the ball at a tight angle right in front of Newcastle fans.
He had to wait until the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half to revive the goal count left at 118 in 2009.
Few goals will be easier, tapping into an empty net after goaltender Freddie Woodman slips away from Mason Greenwood.
“There is more to it,” Solskjær said. “He anticipates the rebound.
It was a goal United fans hadn’t seen in 12 years and feared it would never happen, especially when he nearly signed for Manchester City when he unexpectedly entered the market in the last days of the summer transfer window.
Yet it was a goal that only the crowd of around 74,000 could legally watch in Britain.
The rest of the world – with the exception of Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea and Turkmenistan – could see it live on television.
The peculiarity of the broadcast rules meant that this game was excluded from television and digital platforms in Britain until after the game. Yet illicit clips on Twitter were showing more than a million views within half an hour of being recorded.
There was a moment of unease when United’s need for a new defensive midfielder was highlighted by the failures which saw Newcastle’s Javier Manquillo equalize in the second half.
But Ronaldo regained the advantage in the 62nd. All the running in the build-up was Luke Shaw’s before slipping the ball so Ronaldo could effortlessly put the ball between Woodman’s legs.
And it was still the case, the signing celebration sharpened during his time at Real Madrid, this time outside the Stretford End, where Ronaldo shouted “Siuuu”.
“He has become a better player than ever,” said Solskjær. “Sometimes he can drift to the side. We’re not going to use it like a ram. He will wander.
Victory was assured. It was enough of his compatriot Bruno Fernandes with a nice upward and curling shot and the knockout in stoppage time from Jesse Lingard to add to the party atmosphere.
More difficult missions will come for Ronaldo and United. Saturday’s celebrations were around Ronaldo’s return. But the homecoming will only be considered a success if it brings the Premier League trophy back to United for the first time since the final days of Alex Ferguson’s reign in 2013.
Ferguson, sitting in the directors’ box, certainly seemed impressed with the return of the striker he signed as a teenager in 2003 and is back to revive a club that has seen City usurp United for the silverware otherwise the status.
There was no doubt how excited fans are to see him again.
Post-match interviews, at the pitch side due to coronavirus restrictions, took place on the ‘Viva Ronaldo’ soundtrack sung by thousands of fans who stayed long after the final whistle.