Ronaldo was sent off in his last Etihad derby back in 2008, but Manchester United need their veteran forward in control and firing on all cylinders on Sunday
Cristiano Ronaldo has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks as the goals have dried up and the legs have not responded how he would like.
There has been enough flapping of the arms when team-mates have failed to see him in space that he might have taken off at times.
There has been a rising number of grim-faced walks to the tunnel, some without acknowledging shared disappointment with the fans.
And against Watford, when the final touch just refused to go his way, there was the sight of him kicking the post in anger after a missed opportunity.
But ahead of his first Manchester derby at the Etihad in 14 years, Ronaldo knows he needs to produce a performance on the biggest stage befitting his superstar status.
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And to do so he will have to keep his cool better than he did last time.
Much has changed since the striking legend’s last Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, in November 2008, not least of which the trajectories of the two clubs.
Back then City were still mid-table mediocre, still four years off their first title since 1968 and still three years from a watershed first trophy in 35 years in the 2011 FA Cup.
In contrast United were European royalty; Champions League holders, having beaten Chelsea in Moscow.
It says something that United were still able to win on that occasion despite Ronaldo being sent off for a second bookable offence, Wayne Rooney with his 100th Premier League goal securing the points.
The BBC report on the day noted at its conclusion that the match “perfectly illustrated the gulf in class between the two sides that City’s wealthy new owners Abu Dhabi United are hoping to narrow”.
They have done that since, and how.
Few could have expected United to be heading towards the end of a fifth trophyless season with their former fan favourite having returned and with a top-four spot in the balance.
It is a subplot of a day which could do serious damage to City hopes of keeping Liverpool ’s at arm’s length, or United clinging to hopes of Champions League football next season.
Ronaldo’s reality is that a goal today in a victory could see everything back on track. And few have got rich backing against this remarkable player.
Back in 2008, United dominated City despite being against 10 men for the last 20 minutes, Rooney’s 42nd minute goal the difference.
Ronaldo almost cost them, being booked for bringing down Shaun Wright-Phillips and then given his marching orders by Howard Webb for virtually catching Rooney’s corner 10 minutes later.
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In those days City were not good enough to punish such a lapse, but on Sunday they will be.
Ronaldo, who has scored just one goal in his last 10 in all competitions, needs to keep his head, hope his legs do what his mind is telling them and not let frustration get the better of him.
Above all he needs to reconnect with his 2008 footballing self – a calendar year when he scored 33 goals – as best he can if United and him are to come up smiling.