Cristiano Ronaldo returns from self-imposed Manchester United exile - but for how much longer?

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) fails to hide his frustration - GETTY IMAGES
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) fails to hide his frustration - GETTY IMAGES

Manchester United 1 Rayo Vallecano 1

Cristiano Ronaldo made a 45-minute return from his self-imposed Manchester United exile although manager Erik ten Hag failed to offer any further clarity over his situation after their final pre-season friendly.

The unhappy-looking veteran forward was pictured leaving Old Trafford before the final whistle, although the club declined to comment whether or not his departure was sanctioned by his manager.

The Portuguese star, still reportedly seeking to leave United, played the first half of a draw with the mid-table La Liga side, with his substitute Amad Diallo netting for the Reds two minutes into the second half.

It was Ronaldo’s first action for United since playing in the penultimate game of last season, a 4-0 defeat at Brighton at the start of May.

Amad Diallo scores for Manchester United - AFP
Amad Diallo scores for Manchester United - AFP

Coincidentally, United start the new campaign against Graham Potter’s side at Old Trafford on Sunday although none of the line-up ten Hag selected yesterday appear likely to start that match.

But, with Ronaldo’s future still a topic of major speculation, ten Hag did not address the issue last night, declining regular media duties.

The Dutchman did speak briefly with United’s in-house television station who, significantly, failed to ask a single question about Ronaldo’s performance or his status with the team.

After a couple of early, errant touches, Ronaldo turned in an impressive enough 45 minutes and looked sharper than most of his team mates in what was very much a United shadow squad.

It was a solid showing, given that he had only taken part in four training sessions with his team mates after being given permission to miss United’s pre-season for “family reasons.”

Ronaldo did manage to miss his team’s best chance of the first period, blazing over after being played clear by Donny van de Beek.

And Ronaldo looked exasperated at one stage, following an intense team talk from ten Hag during an injury break later in the first half.

Cristiano Ronaldo played the first 45 minutes in the 1-1 draw after being given permission to miss United’s pre-season for “family reasons.” - Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo played the first 45 minutes in the 1-1 draw after being given permission to miss United’s pre-season for “family reasons.” - Getty Images

But there was no shortage of backing from supporters who had bought tickets in large numbers since Ronaldo announced, via social media on Friday, that he would be playing against Vallecano.

The cheers that greeted the announcement of his name before kick-off drowned out a smattering of boos while there was no lack of replica “Ronaldo 7” shirts on show in the stands or shortage of excitement every time he touched the ball.

United had returned from Saturday’s defeat to Atletico Madrid in Oslo at around 8pm that evening and ten Hag ordered his entire squad to eat a pre-match meal together at the ground at lunch-time on Sunday.

He then appeared in photos on social media leaving Old Trafford around 10 minutes before the final whistle, possibly with ten Hag’s permission given post-match traffic issues.

By that stage, it had taken Ronaldo’s replacement, Amad, just two minutes to do what United painfully failed to do in the defeat to Atletico and in yesterday’s first half - score a goal.

Substitute keeper Diego Lopez spilled a long-range shot from Alex Telles and Amad reacted first, responding ahead of a defender, and planting the rebound into an open goal.

It was the highlight of a low-key Old Trafford affair, although there was an off-field flashpoint after half an hour when Spanish fans let off a flare and police ripped down a Vallecano banner.

United struggled to carve out a first-half chance, and keeper Tom Heaton was forced into a sharp save to deny Alvaro Garcia after all of nine seconds.

And, soon after the opening goal, Isaac Palazon Camacho set up former United striker Radamel Falcao who struck the cross-bar from the edge of the area.

The equaliser, after 57 minutes, was as deserved as it was inevitable after Heaton was only able to get one hand to a shot from Camacho. Alvaro Garcia pounced on the ricochet and scored from a tight angle.

Alvaro Garcia scored the equaliser after 57 minutes - PA
Alvaro Garcia scored the equaliser after 57 minutes - PA

Ten Hag’s weekend team selections suggest that few, if any, of yesterday’s starters will be in his first XI for the Brighton game on Sunday but the manager did enjoy his first pre-season, and first taste of managing United at home.

“Overall, I am happy, we made a good pre-season,” said ten Hag. “We make good progress and we’re ready for the season but still I know there is a lot of room for improvement and we have to improve.

“The reception was fantastic. I felt the vibe in the stadium, I felt the vibe they want to send to the team. There has to be co-operation between fans and the team so we get the right emotion and, especially, the right results.”

Match details

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Heaton; Laird, Varane, Martinez (Bailly 60), Telles; Garner (Iqbal 73), van de Beek; Chong (Hansen 84), Eriksen (Hannibal 60), Garnacho (Shoretire 73); Ronaldo (Amad 45)
Subs (not used): Bishop, Kovar, Fish, Savage, McNeill, Wellens.

Rayo Vallecano (4-1-3-1-1): Dimitrievski (D Lopez 45); Balliu, Suarez, Catena, F Garcia; Ciss (Comesana, 81); Camacho (Nteka 74), U Lopez (Pozo 64), A Garcia (Moreno 81); Trejo (Valentin 64); Falcao (Sanchez 64). 
Subs (not used): Fernandez, Munoz, Mendez.

Referee: R Jones