Ronaldo rebooted
Hat trick answers United critics
Published: Mar 17, 2022 08:42 PM
Cristiano Ronaldo (No.7) of Manchester United celebrates scoring with teammates on March 12, 2022 in Manchester, England. Photo: VCG

Cristiano Ronaldo (No.7) of Manchester United celebrates scoring with teammates on March 12, 2022 in Manchester, England. Photo: VCG

Cristiano Ronaldo answered his critics in some style with a hat trick against Spurs to ensure that Manchester United won 3-2 and earned a vital three points in their hopes to finish in the top four of the English Premier League.

The Portuguese striker was not even in the country the week before when United were handsomely beaten in the derby by Manchester City.

Ronaldo may or may not have become the all-time top scorer, surpassing a total of 805 goals credited to the ­Austrian-Czech striker Josef ­Bican - though records vary - but his first Manchester United hat trick since 2008 saw him become the second oldest player to score a hat trick in the English Premier League.

Ronaldo - aged 37 years and 35 days - sits behind only former Manchester United player Teddy Sheringham - who was 37 years and 146 days in August 2003 - the question is whether the Portugal international will still be around next season to surpass Sheringham.

The hat trick has gone some way to remind everyone - from United fans to their manager - of Ronaldo's talents.

"Cristiano is an important player, of course," Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick said after the treble put his side back in the top four spots for 24 hours.

"With his reputation and with the way he can still play, he has influence on the team for sure," the German added. "He can be a leader with a performance like today. This is what I've been telling him since I arrived - that with a performance like today he can be one of the engines of the team."

Rangnick could even make light of Ronaldo's return to his homeland to recover from the injury that kept him out of the derby defeat.

"We were just joking that maybe it makes sense to send him to Portugal for three days, then have him not train for two and then have him back, by the way he performed on a similar kind of level on Thursday in training," Rangnick said.

"I decided after that training session to play him today even though he has not trained for a week. Maybe we have to do that for the rest of the season."

Ronaldo was delighted with the three goals, posting on social media after the win. "Tremendously happy with my first hat trick since I came back to Old Trafford!" he wrote on Instagram.

"Nothing beats the feeling of being back on the pitch and helping the team with goals and effort.

"We've proven once again that we can beat any team in any given day, as long as we work hard and stand together as one. There are no limits for Man United! No matter what! Let's go, Devils!"

Teammate Paul Pogba, whose contract winds down in the summer, was full of praise for Ronaldo.|

"He has never been a problem," Pogba said. "If you have the best striker in history in our team, it cannot be a problem. Today he showed why he is Cristiano Ronaldo. The performance from him and all the team was very brilliant."

Some of Ronaldo's former teammates shared Pogba's view that the striker was the difference between United and Spurs.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was absolutely sensational. What a response to last weekend, when he missed out," Gary Neville said on Sky Sports.

"[The first goal] was absolutely brilliant. Ronaldo was the star of the show. It was a special goal," Neville said, before praising the third goal. "It stuns me that someone so talented and so skilful can be such a good header of a ball.

"He is so single-minded. He thinks he is the greatest of all time and he wants to play all the time. These are goals scored at the highest levels."

Another former teammate turned pundit Roy Keane was even more effusive in his praise.

"That's where United are at. We've seen the quality of both teams wasn't that great, but it was entertaining and Ronaldo stepped up to the plate. He looked angry today, a lot of aggression in his play.

"Whatever's gone on in the last week or two, he's obviously upset with something. But he showed today what we've seen over the years, the guy's a genius. He's brilliant. 

"Ronaldo has had criticism but the way he turned up tonight - he's been doing that throughout his career. Amazing," Keane said.

"He has a huge part to play in the rebuilding of the club. You need Ronaldo in your team when he's producing like that.

"Has he been at his best this season? Probably not, but when he's playing, you have a better chance of winning football matches. If he's playing week in, week out, he will produce for you.

"It's about moments. Ronaldo has done that for years. He produces those moments.

"The guy's a genius; his three goals were fantastic. He brings so much to the team. Why [do] people think he cannot bring goals or value?

"Forget about FIFA; that is a lot of goals. Scoring goals is the hardest part of the game. Some players don't even score in training." 

Keane also laughed off the injury that surprisingly kept Ronaldo out of the derby.

"I am glad he has recovered. Obviously a few days in Portugal has done the trick for his hip flexor injury problems.

"But it is good to see him back as he's a quality player. Whatever has gone on in the background, he obviously didn't want to sit on the bench."

Ronaldo answered some of his critics with a hat trick but not even he can roll back the years to shoulder the striking burden of the club on his own. If he is still around next season he will need help.

"This is obvious," Rangnick admitted to the media when asked about the need to sign a new forward, with Edinson Cavani also out of contract at the end of the season. 

"Edison's contract is running out in the summer, and the club needs the best possible centre forward. This is an obvious one. I think everyone is aware of that."

One more thing to add a new manager and several other new faces but for now United fans will hope Ronaldo remains.