Cristiano Ronaldo has kept Manchester United’s faint Premier League top-four hopes alive when he netted a hat-trick in their 3-2 win over relegation-threatened Norwich City this afternoon.
The Red Devils have been greatly struggling of late in England’s top division heading into this weekend’s fixtures. Ralf Rangnick’s men were only able to pick up one win across their previous five outings before facing a downbeat Norwich side.
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In the aforementioned outings United managed to find the net on five occasions with Ronaldo registering 60% of those (albeit they all came in a hat-trick against Tottenham last month). Despite some questions regarding his present and future presence at Old Trafford he is Man Utd’s leading scorer and that status not only remained intact but was emphatically extended.
His first of the day came with the game seven minutes old. Speaking of time, Ronaldo converted Anthony Elanga’s pass, a significant moment given the age gap (17 years and 81 days) between scorer and provider. It’s the most a Man Utd goalscorer has been older than the player who assisted him in Premier League history. Ronaldo wouldn’t have to wait any longer for goal number two. Alex Telles was the provider on this occasion.
Just when United thought they had their prey down for the count, the Canaries came back to life, Teemu Pukki was at the heart of everything. He set-up Kieran Dowell before netting a tenth of this campaign subsequently becoming the first Norwich player to do so in multiple Premier League seasons.
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No stranger to adversity, Ronaldo once again dragged his team by rounding off his treble from a direct free-kick with 14 minutes of playing time remaining — his first such goal since July 2020 when he was representing Juventus enroute to an Italian championship — another landmark moment as this was his 50th hat-trick of his professional career at club level.
Staying in the present, Ronaldo with his 15 league strikes as of this writing is only behind former Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema (24) when it came to most goals scored by a player aged 34+ in Europe’s big five leagues. It was also the fifth such time he’s bagged at least two goals in a single game for United this season.
Ladies and gentlemen, Cristiano Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/ujTzg1fKma
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 16, 2022
On top of that, he’s now registered 20+ goals in each of the last 16 seasons. And incredibly the first player aged 36+ to score this amount in a single Premier League campaign. A stunning illustration of his longevity and consistency at the highest level which makes reports of incoming manager Erik ten Hag willing to let him go all that more interesting.
For now United’s focus is returning to Champions League football next season. They couldn’t have wished for a better day; before kick-off Tottenham — who started to gain some momentum under Antonio Conte — suffered a depleting home defeat to Brighton, who the previous week had inflicted a loss on fellow top-four rivals Arsenal, but Mikel Arteta’s men couldn’t recover at Southampton and have now collected a third consecutive Premier League defeat meaning as things stand Tottenham in fourth are three points ahead of United and the Gunners respectively.
As touched upon, momentum is everything and Ronaldo with all of his experience is coming good at such an important time. It’s the small things, by giving his well-earned match ball to promising teenage forward Alejandro Garnacho you can tell the Portuguese international has already switched focus to United’s next game against Liverpool at Anfield in a few days time.