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Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo scores another hat-trick to lift United’s top four hopes




CNN

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second Premier League hat-trick in three games to propel Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Norwich at Old Trafford on Saturday, bolstering the club’s bid to qualify for the Champions League.

Talk of the Portuguese icon’s impact at United has swirled in recent weeks, with the Reds – 20 points behind rivals Manchester City – looking increasingly set to miss out on a top four that would secure them a League of Nations place. champions next season.

Yet a near-perfect weekend for Ronaldo and United saw top four rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur suffer defeat as United slip into fifth with six games to play.

After scoring his 806th career goal en route to a hat-trick against Spurs in March, Ronaldo endured a scorching afternoon at Everton in their next league game following a defeat and an incident involving a youngster’s mobile phone fan.

The 37-year-old was on the scoresheet in five minutes against Norwich, slotting home after team-mate Anthony Elanga dispossessed defender Ben Gibson near goal.

His second first-half goal, a trademark header from Alex Telles’ corner, appeared to have put United in control, but two quick goals either side of half-time from Kieran Dowell and Teemu Pukki again revealed the United’s defensive weaknesses. .

Dowell and Pukki were both left in acres of space before converting, as the side rooted to the bottom of the table leveled.

Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo scores another hat-trick to lift United’s top four hopes

In many ways, the winner was signing Ronaldo – a superb free-kick to cap a hat-trick and secure a vital win for his side. And yet the fact that he was scored via a free-kick is, in recent years, distinctly anti-Ronaldo.

Despite a string of career free-kick goals, Ronaldo hadn’t scored directly since September 2020 for Portugal.

Still, the 37-year-old fell back against Norwich, sending a devastating strike past Tim Krul to score his first free-kick since returning to United in the most vital circumstances.

Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo scores another hat-trick to lift United’s top four hopes

With 15 Premier League goals for the season, he now trails only Liverpool’s Mo Salah (20) and Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min (17) in the goalscoring charts.

No other United team-mate has topped double the league figures, with team-mate and compatriot Bruno Fernandes the club’s second-highest with nine goals.

After the match, United manager Ralf Rangnick hailed Ronaldo’s “crucial” impact.

“Like against Tottenham, he was very crucial today,” Rangnick told reporters.

“The second and third weren’t just easy goals, the way he took those goals… was just outstanding.”

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