Manchester United were expected to beat FC Sheriff and they did, with a result that guarantees progress into the Europa League knockout rounds — but there is still plenty riding on the final round of group games and the trip to Real Sociedad next week.
The Spanish side’s 2-0 win over Omonia Nicosia means United will kick off in San Sebastian second in Group E, three points adrift.
Win by at least two clear goals and Man United manager Erik ten Hag’s team will top the group and go straight in the last 16.
Anything less, and they will face a last-32 tie against a team dropping down from the Champions League. As things stand, that could be Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid or Sevilla.
Ten Hag will want to avoid extra games further congesting an already packed schedule and meeting one of Europe’s heavyweights risks any further progress in the Europa League — a competition that could get United into next season’s Champions League if they miss out on a place in Premier League’s top four.
Expect Ten Hag to pick another strong team in Spain next week and do everything he can to finish top of the group.
Ronaldo was thrown straight back into the team by Ten Hag after being dropped for the draw at Chelsea for disciplinary reasons, and on a different day he could have marked his return with a hat-trick. Instead, he finally got his lone goal in the 80th minute — his first at Old Trafford since May.
By the time he scored on Thursday, the 37-year-old had already seen one header go inches over the crossbar, goalkeeper Maksym Koval stop another close range effort with his foot, and then a second-half volley hit the net before it was immediately ruled out for offside.
It was at that last point Ronaldo let his frustration boil over — he picked the ball out of the goal and blasted it high into the Stretford End.
When a late free-kick hit the Sheriff wall and bounced away for a throw-in, it looked like Ronaldo was in for another fruitless night, but just seconds later he was running away to celebrate club career goal No. 701.
His header from Bruno Fernandes’ cross was well saved by Koval but Ronaldo was quickest in the penalty area to smash in the rebound.
Whether these are the final acts of Ronaldo’s second stint at United or not, he is still more than capable of scoring goals at the highest level.