FARO, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo can begin his second spell at Manchester United earlier than anticipated.
And he’ll reclaim his prized No. 7 jersey when he gets back to Old Trafford.
Ronaldo was released early from Portugal’s squad on Thursday, a day after becoming the highest-scoring player in the history of men’s international soccer by netting his 110th and 111th goals in a 2-1 win over Ireland in a World Cup qualifying match.
He also got booked in that match, meaning he has to miss the qualifier against Azerbaijan on Tuesday through suspension. As a result, Portugal allowed Ronaldo to leave the squad after a recovery session early Thursday, even though the team also plays Qatar in a friendly on Saturday.
His early release from international duty should enable him to spend more time with his new United teammates ahead of his likely first match of his return, against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Sept. 11.
And United said Ronaldo will again be wearing the No. 7 shirt he wore in his first spell at the club from 2003-09.
Edinson Cavani had been in possession of that number but United said the Uruguay striker has now been allocated No. 21, the same number he has with his national team.
Cavani wore No. 7 when he came on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Wolverhampton on Sunday.
“As we all know, the No. 7 is a special number in the history of United,” United said. “It has previously been worn by club icons like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Now, it returns to the man who succeeded Beckham in it, Ronaldo.”