Cristiano Ronaldo return ‘uncomfortable and unnecessary’

Cristiano Ronaldo makes his return to Manchester United during the Premier League match against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday. (Getty)

The return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United on Saturday has been criticised by domestic abuse charity Refuge.

Ronaldo was cheered by fans as he scored two goals in his first game back for the Premiership side on Saturday.

But a banner displaying a message of solidarity with a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted by Ronaldo was flown over Old Trafford stadium around five minutes into the match.

The banner, which read “Believe Kathryn Mayorga,” referred to allegations of rape made against the Portuguese international footballer in 2009.

A banner reading '#Believe Kathryn Mayorga' flies over the staduium during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday September 11, 2021.

A banner reading ‘#Believe Kathryn Mayorga’ flies over the staduium during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. (PA)

Ms Mayorga has claimed the Premier League superstar assaulted her in a hotel suite bedroom after she met him in a nightclub in Las Vegas.

Ronaldo has repeatedly maintained the sex was consensual.

Watch: ‘Cristiano lifts everyone’ – Solskjaer hails returning Ronaldo

Kim Manning-Cooper, the head of communications at Refuge, told Metro that to “parade Ronaldo around” as a hero “feels uncomfortable and unnecessary”.

She added: “Why does this matter so much? It matters because domestic abuse is the biggest issue facing women today…

“For many women, this weekend will have been a triggering experience.”

According to statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2019, two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner, while one in four women also experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime.

Saturday’s stunt at Old Trafford was organised by feminist campaign group Level Up, who said a “culture of silence” has been created around Ronaldo which must end.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: A Manchester Fan celebrates after Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United (not seen) scores his second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United  and  Newcastle United at Old Trafford on September 11, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Manchester United fans celebrate after Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second goal during the match against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday. (Getty)

Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up, said: “Manchester United has welcomed Cristiano like a hero, and created a culture of silence about the rape allegations made against him.

“That ends today.”

In September 2018, Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit in state court in Nevada accusing the athlete of raping her in a Las Vegas hotel penthouse suite in 2009, then paying her $375,000 in hush money.

The Las Vegas police department then announced it was reopening the case.

In 2019, prosecutors ruled Ronaldo would face no charges in because the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The civil lawsuit, in which Mayorga sought more than $200,000 in damages, has been moved to federal court.

A Nevada judge said in June this year that she will rule on whether Mayorga was mentally fit enough to agree to the confidentiality agreement.

Mayorga, from Nevada, gave consent through her lawyers in 2018 to be identified.

Watch: Man United fans snap up Ronaldo shirts at Old Trafford