Cristiano Ronaldo netted a brilliant hat-trick as Manchester United earned a 3-2 smash-and-grab victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday’s Premier League crunch match at Old Trafford. It was another sub-par performance from Ralf Rangnick’s men, especially without the ball, but the individual brilliance of their veteran striker proved enough for all three points.
The tone of the match was set early on, with United finding themselves 2-1 up at halftime despite having spent much of the game camped in their own half. A tentative opening was brought to a swift end when Ronaldo lashed a fierce 25-yard drive into the top corner just twelve minutes in, profiting from space won by a smart flick from Fred in United’s midfield.
But Spurs reacted well to going a goal down, and Ben Davies soon thought he’d levelled up after slotting a fine Son Heung-min pass into David de Gea’s bottom corner. Fortunately for United, the linesman’s flag was swift held aloft, and their narrow advantage preserved. Eight minutes later Eric Dier powered a Son corner goalwards, only for Diogo Dalot to make a crucial goalline clearance.
It took until past the half hour, but eventually United were made to pay for their passivity. Dejan Kulusevski wellied a cross against the unnaturally outstretched arm of Alex Telles, and referee Jon Moss pointed to the penalty spot. De Gea guessed correctly, but Harry Kane’s penalty combined power and placement to find the bottom corner.
Yet just four minutes later, United took the lead again. The Spurs defence was caught high by a teasing Nemanja Matić chip that sent Jadon Sancho tearing through on goal. He played a simple square ball for Ronaldo, who tapped in from point-blank range to complete a first-half brace.
Nevertheless, Spurs continued to look more likely to score early in the second half. They might have done so on the hour mark, when a quick counter culminated in a square ball from Kulusevski to Son, though the Korean midfielder could only screw the ball wide of de Gea’s near post from the edge of the area.
Spurs continued to crank up the pressure as a tiring United struggled to muster anything in attack. Ronaldo was left ploughing a lonely furrow up top, chasing loose balls sprayed roughly in his direction. With just under 20 minutes left, the hosts paid the price. Son found the overlapping Sergio Reguilón down the left side of United’s box, and his low ball across the six-yard box was turned home by none other than Reds captain Harry Maguire.
But once again, conceding a goal briefly revived a lacklustre United. Ronaldo drew a smart save from Hugo Lloris after a fine pass from the impressive Sancho. And with 10 minutes left on the clock, the Portuguese attacker completed his hat-trick to win United the game. A fine corner from Telles was met by a towering Ronaldo, who easily shrugged off the challenge of Matt Doherty to meet the ball. It was a bullet of a header, rocketing into the top corner for 3-2, and three points.