Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the first time this season as Manchester United returned to the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.

Ronaldo had gone seven games without scoring this season until converting a penalty in the first half against Moldova’s champions.

It was Ronaldo’s 699th club goal, but his low-key celebration belied the ease with which United won their third straight away game.

This was the type of drab match Ronaldo seemed keen to escape when he began his failed bid to leave Old Trafford for a Champions League team in the summer.

But the Portugal international will be relieved to have scored after Jadon Sancho put United ahead with a well-timed reaction on the same day he was dropped out of England’s squad.

Ronaldo skipped United’s preseason tour due to “family circumstances,” and while Ten Hag was delighted with his performance against Sheriff, he believes the forward requires more effort to reach top condition.

“We could expect this when you miss pre-season so he has to work really hard and invest to get the right fitness then he will score more goals,” United boss Erik ten Hag said.

“You can see he is really close and when he gets fitter he will finish them. I think he is totally committed to this project and to this team.

“He needed that goal. He was close many times. You see connections coming around him.

“We’re happy for him and the team wanted him to bring the goal, so that’s good.”

Last Thursday, United lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad in their first Group E match.

Ten Hag’s players had no room for error in Chisinau, and they were up to the task against a Sheriff team who beat Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage last season.

United’s first trip to Moldova came as a bitter reminder of their weakened status following their failure to qualify for the Champions League previous season.

Ten Hag, however, chose a strong team in honour of Sheriff, and Sancho, one of five changes, scored United’s first significant assault in the 17th minute.

Sancho took Christian Eriksen’s pass in stride and brilliantly turned course inside the Sheriff area, giving himself space to plant a superb finish into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Ronaldo extended United’s advantage in the 39th minute, slotting home a penalty after Diogo Dalot was hauled down by Patrick Kpozo.

United are three points behind group leaders Real Sociedad, who defeated Omonia Nicosia 2-1.