Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored on his return to the starting lineup as they sealed a place in the Europa League knockout rounds with a 3-0 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Ronaldo, who was left out of the squad for the weekend Premier League trip to Chelsea for disciplinary reasons, scored United’s third goal after Diogo Dalot and Marcus Rashford had given the home side a comfortable lead.
United is in second place in Group E with 12 points from five matches ahead of their visit to Real Sociedad in its final pool game next week, where victory could see it top the table and book a place straight into the last 16.
Erik ten Hag’s side never looked troubled against Moldovan outfit Sheriff and might have been out of sight by halftime after creating numerous chances but only had Dalot’s header from a Christian Eriksen corner just before the break to show for it.
Defender Harry Maguire came on for the second half having missed the previous eight games with a hamstring injury as United doubled their lead when Rashford headed in Luke Shaw’s cross in the 65th. Ronaldo netted a late third from close range.
The group winner qualify for the last 16 while the eight runners-up will compete in February’s playoffs where they face the eight teams coming third in their Champions League groups.
Sociedad defeated Omonia 2-0 thanks to goals from Robert Navarro and Brais Mendez, while Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma kept their knockout round hopes alive with a 2-1 win at HJK Helsinki in Group C after striker Tammy Abraham scored their opener.
They have seven points from five matches and lie in third place, needing to beat Ludogorets at home next week to stay in the competition.