Cristiano Ronaldo nets hat-trick as Manchester United beat Tottenham in thriller

United triumph in must-win Premier League clash as Portuguese striker takes centre stage

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick to earn Manchester United to a crucial 3-2 victory in a thrilling Premier League showdown against Tottenham.

Coach Ralf Rangnick admitted it was a must-win match for his side and United did not disappoint as Ronaldo returned from injury with a bang, striking home superbly from 25 yards and adding another after Harry Kane had levelled from the spot.

The hosts were looking at an unwanted draw following Harry Maguire’s own goal, only for the 37-year-old Portuguese striker to rise highest to head home a corner and send Old Trafford crazy.

There was a roar at the end of a match that was played in frantic fashion from the outset.

Ronaldo saw penalty appeals rejected when an early shot struck Eric Dier’s hand, but soon he would be celebrating a spectacular opener.

Fred smartly flicked a Raphael Varane pass on in what had been a patient attack until the veteran collected the ball and arrowed a stunning 25-yard strike beyond Hugo Lloris in the 12th minute.

Old Trafford was rocking and Paul Pogba sent a curling effort skipping just wide of Spurs’ goal as they pushed for a quickfire second.

Play was not one-sided, though. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg sent a shot down David De Gea’s throat and the offside flag saved United when Son Heung-min put Ben Davies through to score at the end of a fine, flowing move.

Play was to-ing and fro-ing as Ronaldo glanced a header wide before Diogo Dalot cleared Dier’s headed attempt from a corner off the line.

Spurs’ pressure bore fruit as half-time approached, with impressive January acquisition Dejan Kulusevski cutting past Jadon Sancho and firing over a cross that Alex Telles handled.

Referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot and Kane struck the penalty beyond De Gea’s reach in the 35th minute – but Spurs would only be level for three minutes.

Nemanja Matic put Sancho behind Spurs’ backline and he cut across for Ronaldo to direct past Lloris as the visitors appealed for offside. The VAR checked and Sergio Reguilon had played Sancho onside in the build-up.

Spurs pushed for another equaliser before half-time, with a similar pattern of play continuing in the second half.

Reguilon cut out a Sancho cross on a swift United break and Son directed wide at the other end from a smart Kulusevski pass.

Ronaldo forced Lloris into action from an acute angle, but Spurs would peg them back for a second time.

Conte’s men had looked dangerous down the flanks all evening and Reguilon’s cross was directed past his own goalkeeper by United skipper Maguire with Cristian Romero lurking behind him in an offside position.

The Argentina international appeared to goad Maguire after the leveller but was not happy for long.

Ronaldo, who had seen another snapshot saved, jinked away from Romero and leapt above Matt Doherty to meet a Telles corner with a thundering header in front of the Stretford End.

That 81st-minute goal proved decisive and defender Victor Lindelof immediately replaced the man of the match as United held out for three vital points.

Updated: March 13, 2022, 3:51 AM