Manchester United 3-0 Sheriff: Ronaldo returns with a goal as Red Devils keep last-16 hopes alive

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Cristiano Ronaldo marked his return with a goal as Manchester United kept their Europa League last-16 hopes alive with a routine 3-0 win over Sheriff Tiraspol.

Portugal star Ronaldo returned to the starting line-up at Old Trafford after being dropped for the draw at Chelsea following his refusal to appear as a late substitute against Tottenham.

A pair of headers from Diego Dalot and Marcus Rashford put United in control before Ronaldo wrapped up the points nine minutes from time and secured a top-two finish in Group E.

Erik ten Hag's side must now beat leaders Real Sociedad by two goals next week to usurp the LaLiga outfit at the group summit and avoid a trickier clash in the play-off knockout round.

United dominated the first half with over three-quarters of the possession while registering 13 shots on goal without reply.

Antony and Tyrell Malacia drew smart saves out of Maksym Koval, who also demonstrated brilliant reflexes to deny Ronaldo a tap-in from Bruno Fernandes' knockdown.

The hosts were almost punished as Rasheed Ibrahim was whiskers away from connecting with Patrick Kpozo's deep cross but they finally broke through in the dying moments of the opening period as Dalot powered home Christian Eriksen's inviting corner.

Ronaldo went close to doubling the lead when he fired narrowly over in the 58th minute before his close-range volley was disallowed for offside.

United did establish breathing space seven minutes later as a patient build-up culminated in Rashford brilliantly heading home Luke Shaw's centre to end a five-match scoreless streak.

Ronaldo was not to be denied and put the icing on the cake with nine minutes remaining, firing home at the second attempt after Koval had parried his initial header from Fernandes' cross.


What does it mean? United still in with a shout

Guaranteed a top-two finish in Group E, United will now be focused on steering clear of the Europa League play-off round, with the likes of Juventus and Barcelona already among the third-placed teams dropping down from the Champions League.

As for Sheriff, whose attention switches to ensuring a place in the Europa Conference League after failing to register a single shot on goal, they have now lost four successive matches in major European competition for the first time.

Redemption for Ronaldo

It was written in the stars as Ronaldo returned to the spotlight with a goal at the Stretford End.

After a game-high tally of seven shots – three of which were on target – the Portugal captain’s persistence eventually paid off in the 81st minute with his maiden Old Trafford strike of the campaign.

Excellent Eriksen

The Denmark international controlled the tempo of the contest during another commanding display in the middle of the park.

Eriksen led the way with no other player surpassing his tallies of touches (131), passes (115) and key passes (six), while he also gained possession on a game-high eight occasions.

What’s next?

Both sides return to domestic action on Sunday before completing their group stage campaigns next week. United host West Ham in the Premier League, while Superliga leaders Sheriff welcome Dacia-Buiucani.