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Cristiano's double for a 2 - 0 victory over West Ham United

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Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo picked up the FifPro World Footballer of the Year award before kick-off last night and proceeded to show West Ham United just why his fellow professionals voted him the best player on the planet. As gratefully received as his two goals were, it was the return of a smile to the Portugal striker’s face that will have heartened Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United boss, as much as it will have sent a shudder down the spines of opposition defenders.

Indeed, Cristiano Ronaldo’s sullen body language, coupled with a reluctance to celebrate previous goals scored this season, had hinted at a player struggling to accept that his immediate future lies with United after a much-publicised courtship with Real Madrid in the summer, but on this evidence, such troubles finally appear to have been put to bed.

The “Viva Ronaldo” chants are still to be sung with the same gusto they were last season but normal service was resumed on the player’s part, two poacher’s finishes and a directness to complement a flurry of tricks and flicks were enough to see off a West Ham team who seemed resigned to a fourth successive Barclays Premier League defeat almost from the start.

“He has got five goals already and he can get between 25 and 42 goals this season — who knows, he might get 42 again,” Ferguson admitted. “He is capable of that because he is such a threat in the penalty box.”

Old Trafford had half-emptied with ten minutes remaining, but West Ham’s players had disappeared from show long before then. At this rate, it is going to be a long, hard season for Gianfranco Zola, the East London club’s manager, who described Saturday’s match away to Middlesbrough as “crucial”.

As captivating as United’s football had been in the first half away to Everton on Saturday, it yielded a solitary goal and the champions paid for their profligacy as they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw.

Two up after half an hour, there was no danger of a repeat last night, although Ferguson was critical of his players for being “too lax” in the second period. If they were guilty of going through the motions, though, it was only because West Ham were a shadow of the team that had beaten the champions in three of their previous four league meetings.

Aside from a five-minute spell at the start of the game, United’s domination was total and any fears that Ferguson had taken a risk by omitting Edwin van der Sar and leaving Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney on the substitutes’ bench were quickly dispelled. Patrice Evra and Nani formed a lethal combination down the left; the increasingly impressive Rafael Da Silva and Ronaldo did much the same on the right. The only disappointment for United was that the expected landslide failed to materialise.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the fourteenth minute. Da Silva’s cross was only partially cleared, Anderson picked up the ball 20 yards out and found Nani, who crossed for Ronaldo to shoot left-footed across Robert Green, the West Ham goalkeeper, and celebrate wildly.

Dimitar Berbatov has shown glimpses of his talent, but the manner in which the Bulgaria forward made a fool of James Collins in the build-up to the second goal seemed to herald his arrival as a United player. Stopping the ball on the byline with one touch after being sent clear by Anderson, Berbatov flicked it past the West Ham defender effortlessy with his next, before passing the ball to Ronaldo to slot home. “You’d pay double the money to watch that,” Ferguson said.

Carlos Tévez has not started seven of the 11 matches since Berbatov arrived from Tottenham Hotspur, and on this evidence it is clear why. Ferguson sat down with the Argentina striker last week to emphasise that his faith in him was “absolute”, but he will have his work cut out dislodging Berbatov, not to mention Rooney, who entered the fray in the 70th minute sporting arguably his meanest look yet.

His head shaven to the bone, the England forward almost scored immediately, Green doing well to tip over a deft lob, but, other than the return of Michael Carrick after six weeks out injured, there was little to get excited about. Ronaldo, excluded, of course.

Manchester United (4-4-2): T Kuszczak — Rafael Da Silva (sub: G Neville, 81min), R Ferdinand, N Vidic, P Evra — C Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaonaldo, D Fletcher (sub: M Carrick, 70), Anderson, Nani (sub: W Rooney, 70) — C Tévez, D Berbatov. Substitutes not used: B Foster, R Giggs, Park Ji Sung, J O’Shea. Booked: Evra.

West Ham United (4-3-3): R Green — J Faubert, J Collins, M Upson, H Ilunga — V Behrami (sub: L Boa Morte, 45), H Mullins, L Bowyer (sub: F Sears, 69) — D Di Michele, C Bellamy, M Etherington (sub: J Collison, 46). Substitutes not used: J Lastuvka, W López, C Davenport, K Reid.

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Ferdinand supports Cristiano Ronaldo

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According to some newspapers, Rio Ferdinand insists that the Manchester United camp wasn't an awkward one on the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who looked set for Real Madrid during the summer.

As we know, Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid was, of course, the big transfer story of a summer full of controversy. What's more, Sir Alex Ferguson fought tooth and nail to keep the Portuguese winger, who hadn't until recently come out to declare himself happy to stay in Manchester.

But Rio Ferdinand insists that Ronaldo's fellow players welcomed him back to Carrington and Old Trafford after he finally recovered from his ankle injury, rejecting the notion that there was any animosity shown toward the 23-year-old.

Revealing that he was in contact with Ronaldo whilst the transfer saga raged on, Ferdinand told Sky Sports: "I was speaking to him in the summer all the time anyway and I gave him my point of view and told him what I think. We spoke about a lot of things.

Asked if he was given a frosty reception on his eventual return, he responded: "No, the lads were happy to see him come back.

"If he was a different kind of person - someone who didn't really get on with the lads, maybe a recluse - it might have been different.

"But he's a good lad who gets on with everyone. We enjoy his company, he enjoys ours, so there were no problems when he walked back through the doors."

Asked if Cristiano Ronaldo deserved his FIFPro World Footballer of the Year award, Ferdinand was positive and further highlighted Ronaldo's 'winning mentality'.

He told the club's official web: "I think that all the top players have a winning mentality, even in training. He's a guy who wants to learn and be the best in whatever he does - even in table tennis against me!

"Last season and the season before he was faultless. He was doing things other people cannot do and we have won a lot, so he's played a really big part."

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