Manchester United fans witnessed the sensational second coming of Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday, the 36-year-old netting twice in the Red Devils 4-1 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford.
The Portugal international originally called time on his Manchester United career back in 2009 after helping the club to three Premier League titles, a Champions League, an FA Cup and a League Cup, having had his heart set on a move to Real Madrid.
Just over a decade on from that £80m move to the Bernabeu, the iconic forward is once again a United player, having brought an abrupt end to his time at Juventus in order to re-join his former club, despite a brief flirtation with bitter rivals Manchester City.
While the excitement continues to build after the forward’s superb second debut, there’s no doubting a lot has changed for all parties since his previous stint in English football, with the club no longer top dogs and with Ronaldo not quite the rampaging attacker that he once was.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five players who have netted the most goals for the club in the 12 years since his United exit.
Robin Van Persie – 58
One of the most successful signings in a decade littered with costly transfer mistakes, Robin Van Persie stunned the Premier League with his decision to trade rivals Arsenal for United in 2012, having previously been the figurehead and captain at the Emirates.
After netting 30 league goals in his final season with the Gunners, the Dutchman was seen as the man to help regain the Red Devils’ crown, having been pipped to the title on the final day by Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side.
Handed the number twenty shirt as a sign of Sir Alex Ferguson’s desperate pursuit for a 20th club league title, the lethal marksman needed little time to settle in his new surroundings, netting his first goal with his first shot in a 3-2 win over Fulham.
That proved to be a marker of things to come as he went on to fire in 26 top-flight goals to help United wrangle the title back from their ‘noisy neighbours’, memorably firing in a stunning volley to seal the title triumph in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
Despite a breathtaking start to life at Old Trafford, that would be as good as it got for the experienced striker, as a loss form, injury and the departure of Ferguson all played their part in an underwhelming next few years for both player and club, as he netted a respectable, yet less than prolific, tally of 22 goals across the next two seasons combined.
After just three years with the club, he joined Fenerbache in 2015, before ending his career with first club Feyenoord in 2019.
Javier Hernandez – 59
Just pipping Van Persie to fourth spot is Javier Hernandez, the Mexican striker a consistent goalscoring presence during his five-year stint at the club.
Much like current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ‘Chicharito’ was a relative unknown when he arrived through the door in 2010, yet quickly became an instant hit with the United support for his ruthless finishing and his stellar impact off the bench.
In his debut campaign, in particular, the former Guadalajara man was prolific in front of goal, netting 20 goals in all competitions including 13 in the league, memorably netting the first goal in a 2-1 win over rivals Chelsea to all but secure the title for the Red Devils.
The poacher seemed to relish games against the Blues, netting a remarkable tally of nine goals against the west London club in just 15 appearances in all competitions, notably bagging a somewhat controversial winner in a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge in the 2012/13 campaign.
With ten plus league goals in each of his first three seasons at Old Trafford, the arrival of David Moyes in place of Ferguson hampered his game time and his goalscoring exploits, as he netted just four league goals and nine in all competitions, before making a shock switch to Real Madrid on loan in the 2014/15 season.
A move to Bayer Leverkusen would follow on a permanent deal, before a brief return to England with West Ham and a stint back in Spain with Sevilla. The 33-year-old currently plies his trade for MLS side LA Galaxy.
Anthony Martial – 78
One of just two on this list who are still at the club, Anthony Martial continues to divide opinion among fans and pundits alike, having shown flashes of brilliance, combined with the odd anonymous display, since his deadline day arrival from Monaco in 2015.
The then teenager’s signing had come out of the blue in truth, with this little known Frenchman signing in an initial £36m deal and being tasked with leading the line, with the club having seen Van Persie depart and opted not to sign Radamel Falcao on a permanent deal after his underwhelming season on-loan the year before.
Handed the number nine shirt, the fleet-footed forward won over the home support with an instant impact on debut, coming off the bench to score a stunning goal against bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford, the youngster weaving his way past Martin Skrtel before slotting home to help the hosts secure victory.
He would finish that season as the club’s top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions, yet the departure of Louis Van Gaal seemed to spark a loss of form and game time, with Martial falling out of favour under new boss Jose Mourinho.
Despite talk of an exit, the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to initially rejuvenate the forward as he reclaimed his role though the middle and his number nine shirt, going on to net 23 goals in all competitions during the 2019/20 campaign.
He currently faces an uncertain future, however, after scoring just four league goals last season and with the arrival of Ronaldo likely to restrict his game time.
Marcus Rashford – 88
Martial’s fellow teammate Marcus Rashford is next on this list, the academy product one of the real success stories to have come out of the turbulent post-Ferguson era.
The then 18-year-old was thrust into the limelight after a succession of injuries saw him handed a surprise start in a Europa League clash with FC Midtjylland in February 2016, with the forward going on to become a household name overnight by netting two pivotal goals against the Danish side.
Just a few days later, on his Premier League bow, Rashford continued his breathtaking start to life in the first-team by netting another brace against Arsenal in a 3-2 win at Old Trafford, going on to end the campaign with eight goals in all competitions and earning a spot in England’s Euro 2016 squad.
Since then, he initially had to bide his time under Mourinho, yet has thrived since Solskjaer’s appointment, the Norwegian putting total faith in the young star, with the versatile forward having been the club’s leading light at times in recent seasons, alongside Bruno Fernandes.
That trust from his manager has at times almost been a negative for the 23-year-old, with Solskjaer often rarely rotating the Englishman even when carrying injuries, a factor that saw him simply begin to wilt towards the back end of last season due to foot and shoulder complaints.
He is currently sidelined due to surgery on the latter issue, yet is expected to return in the next few weeks, while he has been widely commended for his excellent work campaigning to end child hunger and poverty.
Wayne Rooney – 156
At the top of the pile is unsurprisingly Wayne Rooney, the former Everton man having carried the mantle as the club’s figurehead following Ronaldo’s exit in 2009.
Together the two men had forged one of the most fearsome forward lines in Premier League history, having romped to three successive titles in the late noughties, yet even on his own the Englishman was impressive, developing into more of an out-and-out goalscorer in the years after his former teammate’s departure.
Between 2009 and 2012, he netted 64 Premier League goals, including a career-best tally of 27 league goals during the 2011/12 season, reversing an initial desire to leave the club in 2010 in order to continue being Ferguson’s main man.
An exit again looked likely in 2013 after a frustrating final season for Rooney under the Scotsman, as Van Persie took centre stage, yet the arrival of David Moyes saw ‘Wazza’ commit himself to the club and he would go on to be a shining light in an otherwise turbulent period.
Having been appointed captain by Moyes’ successor, Van Gaal, he slowly altered his role from rampaging forward into a playmaking central-midfielder, albeit while still continuing to be a consistent source of goals.
Despite going on to break the club-record for goals scored with 253, Rooney found his game time limited under Jose Mourinho and was essentially forced to move on in 2017 to return to Goodison Park, before calling it quits on his playing career after spells with DC United and Derby County.