Cristiano Ronaldo debut: Manchester United’s returning hero released early from Portugal squad

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Cristiano Ronaldo debut: Manchester United’s returning hero released early from Portugal squad
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Cristiano Ronaldo will get a few extra days to prepare for his likely second Manchester United debut next weekend after being released early from international duty.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner became the outright leading goalscorer in the history of men’s international football on Wednesday night after his late double saw Portugal complete a remarkable turnaround against the Republic of Ireland in 2022 World Cup qualifying Group A.

Ronaldo’s expert last-gasp brace of headers saw him move clear of Iran great Ali Daei, whose record he had equalled at the European Championship earlier this summer.

Portugal still face a trip to Azerbaijan on Tuesday evening after a friendly with World Cup hosts Qatar in Hungary at the weekend, but their captain and talisman is suspended for the former fixture after receiving a yellow card - his second in qualifying so far - for removing his shirt during the passionate goal celebrations in the Algarve on Wednesday.

The Portuguese Football Federation subsequently confirmed on Thursday that Ronaldo had been released early from Fernando Santos’ squad due to that ban.

“Cristiano Ronaldo was excused from the stage of the national team this Thursday,” a statement read.

“The yellow card seen against Ireland, being the second in this stage of qualification, forces him to fulfil an official game of suspension, which will happen against Azerbaijan.”

Ronaldo completed a sensational return to Manchester United on transfer deadline day this week, penning a lucrative two-year deal that includes the option for a third after being signed from Serie A giants Juventus for a fee of just £12.8million, payable over five years.

The 36-year-old should make his second United debut a week on Saturday (September 11), when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side face struggling Newcastle at Old Trafford in a 3pm BST kick-off that will not be broadcast live on UK television due to blackout restrictions.

After the visit of Newcastle, the Red Devils travel to face Swiss outfit Young Boys in their Champions League Group F opener on September 14 before a Premier League and Carabao Cup double-header against West Ham on September 19 and 22.

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