Cristiano Ronaldo scored a spectacular hat-trick to take Manchester United up to fourth with a 3-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford.
On his return to the team after missing the Manchester derby, Ronaldo gave United the lead on three separate occasions in scoring his first hat-trick since his return to the club.
Tottenham did well for much of the game, twice equalising thanks to Harry Kane’s penalty and, in the second half, through Harry Maguire’s own goal, but Ronaldo was the difference.
The result lifts Ralf Rangnick’s side up into the top four above Arsenal, while Antonio Conte’s Spurs are now five points behind them – albeit with two games in hand.
How Man Utd won it
Ronaldo’s first goal was truly sensational, arrowed into the net from well outside the penalty box to send Old Trafford wild – and perhaps send a message to his detractors.
But Spurs pushed hard once behind, Ben Davies having a goal disallowed after being put in by Heung-Min Son and Eric Dier having a header cleared off the line by Diogo Dalot.
They found an equaliser when Dejan Kulusevski’s cross hit the stray hand of Alex Telles inside the penalty box and Kane fired emphatically past David de Gea from the spot.
It was no more than the away side deserved but their work was undone when Jadon Sancho raced in behind the defence and squared the ball for Ronaldo to score from close range.
Manchester United made five changes from the side that lost to City last Sunday with Bruno Fernandes ill and Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the starting line-up.
In defence, Diogo Dalot and Raphael Varane replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof. Nemanja Matic came in for the injured Scott McTominay in midfield, while Marcus Rashford was preferred to Anthony Elanga in attack.
There was just the one change for Tottenham as Sergio Reguilon replaced the injured Ryan Sessegnon having done so particularly effectively in the 5-0 win over Everton on Monday.
The game settled into a pattern in the second half with Spurs probing – Son going close when directing his shot just wide of the post – and United playing on the counter-attack.
Man Utd: De Gea (6), Dalot (7), Varane (6), Maguire (5), Telles (7), Fred (7), Matic (7), Sancho (7), Pogba (7), Rashford (5), Ronaldo (10).
Subs: Elanga (6), Cavani (6), Lindelof (n/a).
Tottenham: Lloris (6), Doherty (6), Romero (6), Dier (6), Davies (6), Reguilon (7), Bentancur (7), Hojbjerg (6), Kulusevski (7), Kane (7), Son (7).
Subs: Moura (6), Winks (n/a), Bergwijn (n/a).
Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo.
Conte’s team were rewarded with their second equalising goal of the game when Son fed Sergio Reguilon and Maguire only managed to divert the cross past his own goalkeeper.
But Ronaldo had the final say – his towering header from Telles’ right-wing corner finding the back of the net, before he took the acclaim of his adoring crowd yet again.
Analysis: Ronaldo still making the difference
Whether Ronaldo was injured or dropped for the defeat to Manchester City, what is not a matter of debate is the impact that he is still capable of having in big games at 37 years old. In a match of small margins, it was his presence that made the difference.
There was a hint of anger in the shot that opened the scoring having been denied an appeal for handball moments earlier, but the ball was hit hard and true like few can. Backing off Ronaldo within shooting range? It was a huge mistake by Spurs and they paid for it.
That was vintage Ronaldo and the second showcased the other part of his game, that ability to sniff out opportunities. He was in the right place to beat Hugo Lloris again once Sancho had broken the offside trap thanks to Reguilon’s right boot.
It would not have been a Ronaldo masterclass without a header and he duly delivered – eluding Cristian Romero and outjumping Matt Doherty to win the game. He might not be the player he was but he was still the outstanding player in this one. Viva Ronaldo, indeed.
Manchester United will return to Champions League action on Tuesday March 15 at 8pm as they host Atletico Madrid for the second leg of their last-16 tie. Their Premier League game against Liverpool on Sunday March 20 has been postponed, meaning the next domestic game for Ralf Rangnick’s side will be played against Leicester on Saturday April 2 at 5.30pm.
Tottenham are next scheduled to play in the Premier League on Wednesday March 16 at 7.30pm against Brighton.