After Manchester United – Atlético: Cristiano Ronaldo, a hopeless match and a last goodbye?

He was back on track. At the best time. And in the best way. Saturday, in a boiling match against Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo had repeated his ranges. Three goals scored with all his panoply – a heavy strike, a recovery in front of goal and another from the head – all before finding one of his favorite victims. In his favorite competition, the Champions League. And in his preferred context, a decision to force.

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In short, there was an obvious scenario to imagine after it had materialized so many times in the past. Five times in the past decade, Ronaldo had frustrated Atlético de Madrid in C1, with Real Madrid or Juventus. But this time the record got scratched. Muzzled, helpless, out of harm’s way, the Portuguese was once again prematurely eliminated from a competition that decidedly no longer wants him past the knockout stages.

Ronaldo, 54 balls touched, none in the box

On his own or on instructions from Ralf Rangnick, the five-time Ballon d’Or has resolved to force the nature that has been his since he became a surface player. Very quickly, very early on, the Mancunian star ventured everywhere … except in the zone of truth. For a still unclear reason: if he actually touched a lot of balls (54, twenty more than in the first leg), he did not really help to offer more binding to the offensive animation of the Red Devils, still disappointing.

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Bruno Fernandes, barely recovered from the Covid, was not on his plate. Anthony Elanga, scorer at Wanda Metropolitano, lost a lot of balls. And Jadon Sancho, long erased, only woke up in the second half.

For the defense of Atlético, which did not need this to shine anyway, it was a godsend. In 90 minutes, CR7 did not touch a single ball in the Colchoneros area. Nor even attempted the slightest shot. A first for more than a decade in the Champions League.

And if it was the last?

I did not understand his role tonight, the reason why he came to midfieldconfided the former Marseillais Chris Waddle, consultant for the BBC. There was no one in the area so even if there had been crosses, there would have been no one to take them back.”

For the third time in a row, Ronaldo leaves the competition in the round of 16. Did he make his last appearance there, after becoming, on Tuesday evening, the player who accumulated the most playing time there in front of Iker Casillas? At 37, and while Manchester United is only fifth in the Premier League – Arsenal is 4th with 3 games behind – CR7 has never seemed so far from their favorite trophy. The reality still seems difficult to conceive but at Old Trafford perhaps a gigantic page of history has definitely been turned.

Cristiano Ronaldo with his head down during the match between Manchester United and Atlético de Madrid in the Champions League

Credit: Getty Images

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