On a balmy Tuesday night in Saudi Arabia, one former Manchester United striker scored twice to earn his side victory and justify the faith shown in recruiting him from European football.
No, not that one. While Cristiano Ronaldo floundered, Odion Ighalo netted two goals to secure the points for Al-Hilal and bought them to within striking distance of Al-Nassr in the Saudi Professional League standings.
Ighalo, the forward that made Wout Weghorst look like prime Van Nistelrooy during his brief spell at Old Trafford, opened the scoring from the penalty spot just before half-time and netted his second spot kick in the middle of the second period to deflate Al-Nassr.
Having spent his entire career throwing the contents of Toys ‘R’ Us from his gilded pram at the smallest setbacks, it was no surprise that Ronaldo became increasingly furious at the limitations of his team-mates.
Starved of service, and never in danger of reducing himself to scurrying opposition defenders while they maintained possession, Ronaldo’s frustration would result in one of the strangest moments you’re likely to see this season.
The 38-year-old locked eyes with Gustavo Cuellar in a manner that would cause members Twitter army to simultaneously orgasm and faint.
But, instead of asking his adversary to the High School prom, Ronaldo jumped on Cuellar’s back and attempted some form of headlock that floored his bewildered opponent.
As the referee (Michael Oliver!) suppressed a grin while administering a deserved yellow card, and the Al-Nassr chiefs pondered whether a bid for the moon would’ve made more fiscal sense, Ronaldo had managed to suggest a profitable career in WWE could await post-retirement.
🚨🇸🇦| Cristiano Ronaldo gets a yellow card after taking an Al Hilal player down with a headlock 👀
— CentreGoals. (@centregoals) April 18, 2023
His miserable evening continued until the final whistle, first having a goal narrowly chalked off over an agonisingly tight VAR offside call.
Ronaldo was then denied a penalty after a VAR review as Al-Hilal secured a 2-0 triumph against their Riyadh rivals, leaving him with the look of the only man in the room that can smell a bad fart.
The all-time top scorer of international goals has gone two games without scoring for just the second time since leaving United for Saudi Arabia. No wonder, after Al-Hilal fans taunted him with Messi chants, he responded by grabbing and shaking his genitals before marching down the tunnel.
Fans of Manchester United will be interested to learn the parallels between Ronaldo’s time at Al-Nassr and his second spell at Old Trafford.
Despite scoring 11 goals in 11 matches, Ronaldo has already seen off manager Rudi Garcia who was sacked last week amid reports of an uneasy relationship with the star forward.
Somewhere in northern Europe, we’d like to believe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick arched an eyebrow and poured themselves a large alcoholic drink upon hearing the news.
Al Nassr lost the Saudi Super Cup final to Al Ittihad in January but have not beaten their closest rivals, Al Ittihad, Al Hilal or Al Shabab, in the league this season despite the presence of Ronaldo in their ranks.
It’s natural to rubberneck at the misfortune of a brilliant, if divisive, sporting icon like Ronaldo. But nobody could’ve predicted how the shame of being outshone by Ighalo would scramble his brain.
By Michael Lee